Monday, June 30, 2008

Never Send a Journalist to Do a Journalist's Job

In blogging this morning on the details of Arizona's ballot intitative on English, Bruce Barry gives the facts that the Nashville City Paper did not that show Arizona's law to be benign compared to Eric Crafton's designs.  It doesn't seem good form for NCP to raise a very different Arizona as it comes across more as helping to soften the blow of Crafton's initiative.

Rifts in Obama Camp over FISA

Thousands of Barack Obama supporters are using the campaign's social networking site to organize opposition to his support of the Democratic Congress's capitulation to the Administration and Big Telecom in passing a very flawed surveillance bill.  Let's hope that it motivates Obama to rediscover his inner civil libertarian.

Purity and Danger

So, what is it that makes Democrats Democrats?  Pure fidelity to certain core values or a postmodern latitude that maintains that Democrats are whatever Democrats say they are?

Me?  I'd say that Democrats are largely Republican replicants who play to lose.


UPDATE:  Another example of playing to lose:  avoiding attacking McCain on the very main points of his campaign.  Is this 1988 and Dukakis all over again?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Thank you for correcting my English, which stinks"

The Nashville English First website was down for a while today (or at least I couldn't access it), and it looks like the wait has paid off as they've updated it with their special patriotic July 4th edition (okay, it looks exactly the same as the pre-patriotic July 4th edition).

Merry Independence Day, English speakers everywhere, even though English is said to unite us even more than independence!


And now for your English language learner fact of the day, which is intended to correct popular misconceptions about ELLs:
A Pew Hispanic Center analysis of public school data from key states finds that English language learners (ELL) students tend to go to public schools that have low standardized test scores. However, these low levels of assessed proficiency are not solely attributable to poor achievement by ELL students.

These same schools report poor achievement by other major student groups as well, and have a set of characteristics associated generally with poor standardized test performance--such as high student-teacher ratios, high student enrollments and high levels of students living in or near poverty.

When ELL students are not isolated in these low-achieving schools, their gap in test score results is considerably narrower, according to the analysis of newly available standardized testing data for public schools in the five states with the largest numbers of ELL students.

UPDATE: More positive PR for and scant investigative reporting of Eric Crafton at the Nashville City Paper. They simply relay what he feeds them.  He's playing them like a cheap Strativarius knock-off.  They're so mastered.

Happy Anniversary to the Best Sports Movie Ever

It has been 20 years this month since Bull Durham "crashed" on the scene:

If by "umpire" he meant "a bill of goods."

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts has not been the neutral umpire or cautionary 5th vote that he sold himself to be when campaigning for the position.  Instead, he has always sided with the conservatives against the liberal wing of SCOTUS.  And he has repaid the Bush Administration for the appointment by being partial to them in his decisions.

The Real Threat is Decay from within

The only hope for many of Boston's poor and working classes is that the utilities do not have enough employees to shut off the tens of thousands of households falling behind on their utilities payments.  And, between inflated oil and food prices, next winter looks even worse.

Activist Supreme Court Upholds Enronesque Artificially Inflated Utility Prices

This has got to be a joke, because the reality is a farce. SCOTUS is essentially extending the utility giveaway that unethical John McCain economic advisor Phil Gramm started for his buddies and campaign contributors at Enron by defending a federal regulatory commission that is refusing state governments' wish to renegotiate bogus contracts.  Regulation in the Bush era (or error) is worth about as much as a pile of poop a stray leaves at a landfill.

SCOTUS backed up a federal regulatory commission's decision to shield the high western utility prices based on the "sanctity of contracts." Like I said, that's a joke.  How come contracts did not matter 6 or 7 years ago when Enron was cooking its books to show fake income and prompting suppliers to shut down energy plants under the false pretense of maintenance only to drive up the utility prices Californians had to pay?  If the sanctity of contracts really existed, then private utility prices would be rolled back to their pre-Enron days.

The SCOTUS decision is based on protecting the corporate political interest in making as much money off of people saps like us by any means necessary.  The biggest joke is the pretense of sanctity at Supreme Court.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Multi-faceted Errors of Half-Truths

TaxingTennessee generates another improvised exaggerated device to lob at any passing chance of funding services that aid people.  This time, Ben Cunningham lumps all Christian progressives under a Social Gospel banner, without regard to historical accuracies of either Christian progressives or the Social Gospel.

The Social Gospel Movement was founded by Walter Rauschenbusch who did criticize the individualistic and pietistic conservativism of the late 19th Century.  What Ben will not tell you is that 19th Century conservativism was premillienial and committed to biblical literalism, and thus it could not address the abject poverty, malnutrition, and rampant disease of the smoke-belching industrial era beyond telling poor people to wait for their reward in heaven or for Jesus to return.  Rauschenbusch was a pastor in the "Hell's Kitchen" neighborhood of New York.  He worked on the front lines of the human condition where conservative Christians feared to tread.

Ben will also not tell you what the church historians like Robert Handy will:
[T]he deeply religious orientation of [Rauschenbusch's] life was not shaken [by the Social Gospel] but deepened.  He remained always an "evangelical liberal," influenced by liberal scholarship [especially critical scholarship in biblical studies] but grasped by a personally profound Christianity.
In fact, the Social Gospel is criticized by other progressive theologies for being too sentimental and optimistic about the human capacity to overcome sin.  It's a criticism that can also be leveled at contemporary conservatives (like Ben Cunningham), whose faith in markets bar acknowledgement of the capacity of market relations (which are also social and collective) to misuse, abuse, and destroy people.

Finally, Ben's insinutation of an unadulterated Christian theology of which liberal theology is not a part will lead him not to tell you that conservatives amalgamate and assimilate non-Christian elements in their theologies, too, because a literal doctrine of the Bible is impossible without making some qualifications and compromises.

Instead, Ben puts words into the mouths of Social Gospelers that they never would have uttered because it is politically expedient for the anti-revenue mob to discredit mobilized progressive Christians with half-truths about who they are and what they want to "steal."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Democrats Will Sell Their Votes to the Highest Bidder

Further confirmation (via Maplight) that Democrats have no claim on the moral highground:
Comparing Democrats' Votes (March 14th and June 20th votes):

Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint gave PAC contributions averaging:

$8,359 to each Democrat who changed their position to support immunity for Telcos (94 Dems)
$4,987 to each Democrat who remained opposed to immunity for Telcos (116 Dems)

88 percent of the Dems who changed to supporting immunity (83 Dems of the 94) received PAC contributions from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint during the last three years (Jan. 2005-Mar. 2008).
The telecoms are not getting immunity because it is the right thing to do. They are getting immunity because they outspent the ACLU and bought Democratic votes. This is why national elections, like the one coming up in November are generally moot. Little will change, because the PACs have already determined who is going to win: private corporations are going to win because they have more money than anyone else.

Thanks, Michael Silence

In the past 12 hours, I've had around 1,000 visitors because of Michael Silence's link to my blurb on the alleged hacking of Jim Cooper.  I don't think I've ever had 1,000 visitors overnight before.  A lot of them looked connected with local governments and co-ops around the country.  I'm grateful for the Silence.


UPDATE:  Just past 5:00 and I've had over 1,000 visitors since midnight (1,600 pageloads).  That's the biggest one day Enclave visitors total since Valentines Day 2006, when I posted pictures I took of Carrie Underwood (not knowing who she was) shooting a music video Downtown.

Judicial Activism is the Conservative Way, Well-Regulated Militias to the Contrary

Yesterday I pointed out that the SCOTUS decision in the Exxon Valdez disaster case is obvious judicial activism, with the Justices determining tort policy and micromanaging a jury decision of a corporate political campaign contributor without showing any jury irrationality.

Today, I give you the SCOTUS decision on the DC handgun law, and E.J. Dionne's response:
The court's five most conservative members have demonstrated that for all of Justice Antonin Scalia's talk about "originalism" as a coherent constitutional doctrine, those on the judicial right regularly succumb to the temptation to legislate from the bench. They fall in line behind whatever fashions political conservatism is promoting.

Conservative justices claim that they defer to local authority. Not in this case. They insist that political questions should be decided by elected officials. Not in this case. They argue that they pay careful attention to the precise words of the Constitution. Not in this case ....

[I]t was the court's four more liberal justices who favored judicial modesty, deference to democratic decisions, empowerment of local officials and care in examining the Constitution's actual text and the history behind it. Indeed, the same conservative majority ran roughshod over the work of an elected branch of government in its ruling yesterday on campaign finance law.
I've always believed that "tort reform" was nothing but a cynical punch line that conservatives used with mock seriousness to consolidate power. The recent SCOTUS decisions on the part of Justices who are supposed to be impartial confirm my belief. It's not tort reform that matters to conservatives as much as it is using the idea of tort reform to gain control and then legislate a conservative agenda from the bench.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Surprised at All

Award-winning?

I gave it my thumbs up last year.

We could have had much worse.

Neighborhood Councils Don't Bring Civility to LA's Echo Park

Is more local democracy a good thing?  It wouldn't seem so based on this LA Times story on the grandaddy of white flight neighborhoods, liberal Echo Park.  Yes, democracy is messy, but should it also be rife with "fiefdoms" and power plays?  Or is low level political manuevering something that works progressively out of the wash?

Cool Public Art Waterfalls in NYC

Enough discussion about landlocked public art.  Nashville needs to find some cool water feature art to install on the Cumberland.  Check out the Big Apple:


Bipartisan Budget Accords Unretrieved by a Blue Dog

PiTW has the news on the House Appropriation Committee's rejection along partisan lines of Jim Coopers attempts at bipartisan accords on cutting spending.  Jeff Woods wants to know if Middle Tennessee can have its earmarks back now.  Did we ever deserve to lose them in the name of bipartisan accords?

Planning Commission Disapproves 7th & Garfield Rezoning Proposal

Expressing the wish that the proposed SP zone change for the Ardelia Park plan slow down, be tweaked design-wise, and get squared away on stormwater run-off and with NES on powerline configuration, the Planning Commission unanimously disapproved the SP with the expressed expectation that it come back to them for reconsideration.

The rezoning request could not be deferred by the Commission, since it is scheduled for second reading at next Tuesday's Metro Council meeting. However, with the disapproval by the Planning Commission, a supermajority (27 votes) is required for the council to pass the SP after feedback is given at the public hearing.

I am curious to see whether Erica Gilmore moves forward or defers the proposal, given the Commission vote. I agreed with the sentiment that this plan is probably moving too quickly, given that all of the ducks (stormwater, NES, and Planning) are not yet lined up.

Flew the Coop

Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper is [allegedly] under FBI investigation on charges of unauthorized entrance to a cooperative electric trade group's website. That is a rather interesting way of gathering information for congressional hearings.



CLARIFICATION:  I have added above that the investigation is only reported because there is no confirmation from the FBI that they are investigating Jim Cooper.  In a post I wrote today (Friday) referring to this post, I did describe the hack job in question as "alleged," which is more factual.


UPDATE:  Outgoing Scene editor Liz Garrigan chides us to get a grip on Mr. Cooper's squeaky clean reality.

Those Judicial Activists on the Supreme Court

SCOTUS did the Bush Administration another solid by cutting the punitive damages a jury awared to victims of the Exxon Valdez disaster. One contributor at the SCOTUSblog described the down-is-up posture of the Supreme Court majority in this case:

[This] opinion, is, at its heart, judicial activism at its worst ....

While the Court agrees that most punitive damages award are assessed by a jury of presumed reasonable people and reviewed by a judge, the Court still somehow finds this process unreasonable ....

As Justice Stevens so aptly stated in his dissent, “in light of the many statutes governing liability under admiralty law, the absence of any limitation on an award of the sort at issue in this case suggests that Congress would not wish to create a new rule restricting the liability of a wrongdoer like Exxon.” Here the Court has inserted its judgment for the sound reasoning of juries, the informed review of judges and the intent of Congress.

Tort reformers require a high federal authority to impose their cause, because they cannot demonstrate reasonably that jury awards are not rationally calculated or deliberated and overseen by competent judges. I would call it denial--with SCOTUS collusion--that corporate malfeasance can visit so much destruction across a landscape and upon people's lives.

Representing Someone Else

Jim Cooper's aversion to bringing home infrastructure bacon to Metropolitan Davidson County leads him to fight for reform in the Texas Hill Country. I know there were a number of Tennessee volunteers who died at the Alamo, but can't Texans fight their own utilities battles without the help of our member of Congress? When does paying our own Representative to become someone else's Davy Crockett become itself a wasteful federal earmark or a bridge to no where?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fisk Raises Enough for Mellon Match

Congrats to our northwest Nashville neighbor, Fisk University, which has met its $4 million goal before the end of June deadline, qualifying it for $2 million from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. The Nashville community kicked in 1/3 of the $4 million, and Salemtown Neighbors members made their own contributions. Thanks to readers clicking on Google ads, Enclave kicked in $190 to support Fisk.

We're Not Among the "Best Cottage Neighborhoods"

CottageLiving is out with its annual pick of top ten U.S. neighborhoods.

Outside of the article, I don't know much about these places, but they seem to have actualized potential that only lies dormant or barely rises in Nashville's urban neighborhoods.

A formerly gang-infested public housing area replaced with a mixed-income neighborhood outside Philly. A sprawl-buffering walkable community in Oregon. Affordable housing in a cottage community with amenities for families outside of Albuquerque. Infill close to Kansas City that doesn't drive out original neighborhood residents. Sustainable builds at an old Charleston naval yard.

These all look like great, diverse neighborhoods. Something to aspire to, even.

The Muse is Vindicated

Other good dates to avoid public scrutiny include those near the 4th of July ....
- - Developers' Playbook, Occasional Muse

Next week's Metro Council agenda is out, and almost as if Nashville's legislative body took its cue straight from the developer's playbook, the meeting is dominated by public hearings on 20 rezoning and planning requests. July 1 does not seem very convenient for the public to attend hearings designated for them; in fact, it seems most convenient for Council Members and developers because of the broader inconvenience.

Also on that agenda is perhaps this Council's most significant black mark, the do-over bill to include controversial rehabilitation services within agricultural zoning, which was prompted by investigations by the Bush Justice Department. But it was also a black mark against the Purcell Administration and Karl Dean's Legal Department, since the original bill passed by the Council in 2007 should have been reviewed by Metro Legal in 2006, and could have been vetoed instead of being returned unsigned.

All in all, it looks like a pre-holiday, conflict-avoidance slate of public hearings.

Angling for the Sharks

Earlier in June, I linked an ACORN foreclosures ranking of Attorneys General, which gave the TN AG a "B." It turns out that two AGs receiving "A's" from other states are reaffirming ACORN's grading curve by filing suit against Countrywide Financial for deception and fraud.

Leader of the He-man Hyphen Hater's Club Uses a Lot of Hyphens

Eric Crafton attempted to debunk his critics yesterday:

let's look at the arguments from the liberal opposition to the "English first" ballot initiative ....

"Making English the official language is a racist, mean-spirited ploy" is always the first salvo they fire. Anyone who supports our Founding Fathers' ideas or embraces America's culture and language is automatically labeled a racist .... The divisiveness of the hyphen-loving left has to end. One American people, one American nation has to be the new mantra; please join me in declaring the "you-are-a-racist-if-you-disagree-with-me" argument officially null and void.

I've already addressed the idea that policies (like Jim Crow and English Only) can be racist without ever specifically mentioning race. So, Mr. Crafton may both support family members of different ethnicities and advance policies that are unconstitutionally biased against different ethnic groups. The latter becomes a means of whipping up a segment of the Republican base in the fall election.

It won't be the first time that or the only matter on which Eric Crafton has expressed a mean spirit. Liberal charges of Mr. Crafton's meanness are neither fabricated just to defeat an initiative nor null and void as he would like to have them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dems the Victims of their Own Rooseveltian Successes?

New South WPA'ed into existence only to step into the arms of Republicans? So, some believe:
the real story of the GOP’s new southern eminence has to do with the emergence, at long last, of a New South, ushered (ironically) into being by Democratic programs of New Deal and wartime mobilization. As people in the South got richer, they got more Republican, for the same reasons that people get Republican anywhere else—they want to keep their taxes low and protect their own interests.
Talk about biting the hand that fed you.

At Least We Finished Ahead of Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia!

Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Tennessee 42nd in protecting its children from a life of poverty.

Maybe we'll catch Kentucky the next time around.

Blog Turns Up Heat on California Ice Cream Store

I've been following this story since it broke on the Consumerist blog yesterday after a mother wrote the blogger to charge that the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory rebuffed her pleas for a bathroom while her daughter was cramping up from diarrhea and crying. It hit an Orange County Paper today, with a mention of Monday's original blog post that has had more than 116,000 views and 330 comments.

The latest news is that the RMCF franchise manager says she issued the mother an apology, which the mother denies, saying that the manager laughed at her and told her to go ahead and sue her. Also, the manager is excusing her employees' refusal of a bathroom for the 5-year-old girl based on "insurance policies" and she is arguing that there were "at least a dozen restrooms near the store the mother could have used." In the original email to Consumerist, the mom said that the employees never offered her any alternatives before the kid crapped all over herself and mom, both.

Nothing like a little heartless customer service, and a little distancing at the national office, where they seem to believe that they have no control over their franchises, or so they would have us believe.

In Your Face, Metro Council Purcell-Haters

That's Harvard, Metro Council. Not the "Harvard of the South." There is no other.

And for all of your trashing of his name during this month's budget love-ins for our current Mayor, you cannot take away the fact that Bill Purcell is now a bigger deal than you are because of his new Institute of Politics appointment at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

I'll take Caroline Kennedy's judgment of Bill Purcell over any council member's:
Bill Purcell will be a wonderful leader for the IOP .... His extensive experience in elective office, his bipartisan governing style, and his commitment to public service as a way of life will inspire a new generation of students.

Congratulations, Bill Purcell. I didn't always agree with you, but I always felt that neighborhoods stood a better chance with you at the helm (and the last seven months have confirmed that). You deserved a better fate than you received from many of these council members, and I don't think you can have a much better fate public service-wise than teaching politics at Harvard University.

Living well should be the best form of revenge. May the local yokels eat your dust, and please kick up as much as you can.


UPDATE: Something we should have seen more prominently the past 7 months when the Purcellophobes were dragging his tenure through the mud: council member gives him his due, some proper respect.

BREAKING: Mayor Makes Room on His Schedule for Baseball, Communications Director Clarifies Controversial Change

Give credit where it is due: local newspaper was the first to go deep inside the Courthouse Communications Office to scoop before anyone else. Hopefully, they'll generate 5 editorials on the story between now and next year to prove that they are not just granting another elected official a lot of uncritical, fluffy coverage. No word on whether Richard Lawson will handicap the Sounds' chances.

Dear Print Media

Fewer editorials and more investigative reporting on the financial backers behind Eric Crafton's English Only ballot initiative, please.

I know that editorials sell papers, but don't journalists have some obligation to dig up valuable information that no nonjournalist can?

Editorials are nothing more than blog posts in hard copy.

Laying Tribute

George Carlin on who actually owns the United States:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quote of the Day: Against the Chatterbox

This is a Republic, for crying out loud, not a private birthday ice cream pool-party. If you want to build rubbish, go do it like the rest of the landed gentry: in the middle of a huge estate where nobody will have to deal with it. If you want to create and sell a product in the value-added environment of a living neighborhood, be prepared to operate in a community of other human beings, and don't bitch when those people happen to be citizens first and consumers second.

- - New Towner in a Nashville Charrette thread on Richard Lawson's latest screed

Chatterbox still hatin' on 'hoods

The Nashville City Paper's Richard Lawson has written another tired and disjointed screed that does the very thing he accuses neighborhood leaders of doing: demonize his opponents, neighborhood leaders. I'm not sure why he keeps trying to drive the point home that he is in the middle on this debate, because just like every previous column before it, Lawson paints all neighborhood advocates as shrill, uncompromising, monolithic hypocrites standing in the way of progress and courting danger by risking driving out developers.

It's getting redundant and unoriginal, and it's not clear that he is able to get past his own self-imposed blinders. The middle ground in Lawson's harangues seems to be whereever he chooses to stand (but not too far from developers) rather than in the real center equally distant from inordinate neighborliness and from absolute growth.

I've engaged him directly on several occasions. No matter how many cases running counter to the Lawson meme that I've given him, he chooses to ignore examples that refute his prejudice about neighborhood leaders.

In today's column he even goes so far as to blame organized neighborhoods for the lawyers and PR pros whom developers hire, as if developers are above striving for a competitive advantage on their own. And that is the flip side of his prejudice: he puts developers above reproach and writes as if they are entitled to reputations they have not yet earned as builders of great neighborhoods, instead of opportunists interested in more than just making a fair profit. One bad monolith bequeaths another.

In the end, Lawson dusts off and retreads the balance in which all of us who are not saviors developers hang: our very communal welfare rests on their personal whims and their private priorities (and such a myth is written in the very same publication that recently referred to neighborhood advocates as an elite gentry!). It's the same thing I've been told by a couple of Salemtown developers who express their sense of entitlement to do whatever they want--come run-off or diversity--without regard to community feedback.

What neither they nor Richard Lawson seem to understand is that our neighborhoods are the only lever that many of us have. And what they misjudge is the community's capacity to compromise without bending over to service their desires. They have blinded themselves to those possibilities.

Supreme Court Guarantees that an Unelected Appointee Will Have Power to Take Property

The highest court refuses to hear the case against Homeland Security's bid to waive dozens of federal laws that prohibit the government from taking land in order to build the $4 million-per-mile border wall.

Mayor Dean Surfaces at the U.S. Mayors Conference

According to Harry Moroz:
Mayor Dean of Nashville talked about some of the benefits of No Child Left Behind (true, while decrying the program’s lack of funding and pointing out other important deficiencies)
No Child Left Behind? Our only Mayor's Conference dispatch from Mayor Dean, and his answer to a question on addressing "widening wealth inequality, climate change, and immigration" was No Child Left Behind?

Are we living on a speck?

Clandestine Crafton

Eric Crafton and his English Only Treasurer, Lewis Lampley, are refusing to divulge the names of the "Nashville English First" board of directors, which Lampley says has to approve the use of money donated to its organization.

Seriously, what has Eric Crafton got to hide? Why isn't the Bellevue council member being transparent and forthcoming about those driving his ballot initiative?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

TDOT Fails to Work with Metro on Rosa Parks' Bike Lanes

A few days ago, Freddie O'Connell let the Salemtown neighborhood association know that, with new paving of Rosa Parks Boulevard, there was a failure to install bike lanes, but he wrote that the problem should be solved by the end of the month.

Here's Freddie's account on from the Salemtown email list:

as soon as I noticed that Rosa L. Parks was being stripped for resurfacing, I began inquiring about whether the new surface would include bike lanes since the section between Jefferson and I-65 is a designated bike route. It's a good thing I did because it's a state highway, and TDOT is notorious for its lack of coordination of Metro on projects like this. Fortunately, the Metro bike/ped coordinator is now working on a solution that will include bike lanes for much of the stretch being resurfaced.

Considering the number of kids on bikes around here and the number of people pursuing transportation alternatives, not all of whom know the rules of the road or the best practices in bike safety, I think it's important that the infrastructure itself provide safe pathways for cyclists and pedestrians.

Similarly, I think it's important that we continue to ensure that the state and Metro cannot get by shortchanging neighborhoods that have historically suffered from socioeconomic doldrums thinking that no one will notice or care.

Suburbia Still NIMBY about Christian Halfway House for Ex-Cons

Another suburban community is organizing to oppose Men of Valor's plan to build a 120-bed facility for ex-cons, citing their reasons as "residential community and safety concerns."

GOP on Transparency: Secrets to the Grave

TPM has the very telling footage of a Republican Congressman suggesting that any ugly truths about the Bush Administration should die with those who know them:

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Circuit City Tries to Force Customer to Pay $40.00 Extra for a Digital Converter Box

Say what you will about the merits of the government forcing people to switch from analogue to digital TV broadcast reception, but it looks like at least one retail electronics chain is striving not only to get their cut on the sale of converter boxes, but also to skim more off customers in the form of credit card agreements, whether a customer agrees to an agreement or not. The instance of Circuit City employee calling the police when a customer refused to sign the credit card agreement in order to use a government voucher was heavy-handed and over-the-top.

Mayors' Conference Committee Passes Resolution on ICE

Santa Fe, NM Mayor David Coss, who has had bad experiences in his community with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "collateral captures," is shepherding a resolution through the U.S. Conference of Mayors calling for a halt to all ICE raids. It has passed the Criminal and Social Justice standing committee, and Monday it is scheduled for a conference vote.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama Talks Cities with Mayors

Harry Moroz has the dispatch from Barack Obama's speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, an event that John McCain has decided to avoid:

Senator Obama used Senator McCain’s absence from the meeting to draw distinctions between what he called his willingness to partner with cities and Senator McCain’s “other” priorities. He attacked Senator McCain’s criticism of the COPS program and Community Development Block Grant funding, both of which are major priorities for mayors. Later, he cited Senator McCain’s opposition to funding for the Highway Trust Fund (which is quickly being depleted of funds) and took a shot at Senator McCain’s opposition to funding for levies. Both he and Senator McCain were appalled by the devastation from floods in the Midwest, Senator Obama assured us, but McCain would could not truly understand the devastation because of his opposition to such funding.

Obama’s final shot took aim at Senator McCain’s tiresome talk about pork barrel spending. There is a difference, Obama suggested, between pork barrel spending and national priorities.

Obama called for a new vision of cities, one that recognizes the growth of both cities and metro areas (here he cited statistics generated by Brookings and later mentioned the head of the think tank’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Bruce Katz, by name). Strong cities, Senator Obama suggested, are the backbone of regional growth and regional growth the source of national prosperity.

None of the programs that Barack Obama is promising the Mayors to fund is a left-wing, Great Society or New Deal outlier. The Community Develop Block Grant program was created by Republicans as an alternative to domestic welfare-type initiatives. COPS was a product of the Clinton presidency, and thus influenced by conservative leadership wings of the Democratic Party. Republican Presidents Reagan and Bush I raised taxes for the highway trust fund, so it must have been a high priority for them.

We've shifted too far right if such modest programs for our urban areas generate any opposition. They are promises that Obama should be accountable for, but they are not boldly progressive. They are merely an acceptable start.

As for Obama's drawing a distinction between pork barrel spending and national priorities: hopefully Tennessee Congressman and Obama supporter, Jim Cooper (who has sworn off all earmarks in the recent past) is listening to him on that point. It would be a shame if the next President was more of an advocate for programs that support Metro Nashville than our own elected representative.

At the Risk of Violating Rexblog's Fair Use Policy

His point about the AP-muchado-about-nothing over blogging their stories and fair use needs to be read:
The reality is, there are lots of sources to link to who would welcome the Google juice that comes from bloggers linking to them. The Wall Street Journal goes out of its way to tear down its paywall for bloggers. So if the AP wants to drive traffic away from its member newspaper sites and to content from Reuters, Dow-Jones, the New York Times and the original news stories on which much of the AP stories are based, then why bother fighting them?
The AP wizards who came up with the idea of fighting bloggers who post their content are being bone-headed, but why give them more of a sense of purpose by fighting or even paying attention to them? The Aristotelian axiom applies here: the best form of revenge is living (or writing) well. I don't need the AP to blog; you don't need them either.

Happy Summer Solstice!

According to the calendar the summer solstice came at 1 minute before midnight last night, which means that spring is officially over. And if you are concerned about the state taking measures to prevent crime at Bicentennial Mall and supporting North End residents (unlike the leadership of Historic Germantown, Inc.), then you know that the passing of spring signals that we are two seasons and two of State Senator Thelma Harper's broken promises past pledged changes at Bicentennial Mall State Park that might prevent crime, both day and night.

I plan on writing Senator Harper another letter before Midsummer's Night on Tuesday, but it bears marking this day, and praying that HGI President, Stacy Mosley, is being truthful in saying that the pledged changes are coming in the fall and that we need to put our faith in her. She has put HGI's credibility on the line with Senator Harper's on that score. If the state fails to produce in the fall like it has in the spring and last winter, HGI's leadership looks either gullible or intimidated or overprotective of state officials.

Homeschooler Has Unintentionally Kind Words for Barack Obama

Unintended consequences:

Obama unveils his new logo. Seems presumptive to me.
In an attempt to criticize Barack Obama's patriotic new logo, local GOP darling Kay Brooks actually paid him a compliment this morning.

"Presumptive" is defined as "providing a reasonable basis for belief or acceptance" or "founded on probability." Thus, according to Ms. Brooks' statement, Barack Obama's new logo is founded on probability and it expresses an entirely reasonable belief about who should be President.

Is that an endorsement?

Forget Those Grand Theories about So-Called "Reagan Democrats"

Some would argue that the people who put Ronald Reagan in office in 1980 were just those Democrats motivated by a bad economy and the way Jimmy Carter handled it; ideological discomfort with the Democratic Party be damned.

AT&T is among Most Astonishing Corporate Cash-Outs

HRWorld has the 15 most legendary retirement bonuses and cashouts that corporate America can pimp. Nashville's AT&T is atop the obscene pile on.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Drug Dealers to the Left of Him, Metro Council Member to the Right

A resident of the McFerrin Park area of East Nashville calling himself "Rainman" gives some harrowing accounts--at an online forum for automotive chats--of what it is like to live a transitional neighborhood that Animal Control would not even enter to pick up strays for fear of violence. As a community leader he writes that he spent a lot of time both talking personally with the criminal element around his neighborhood and defending himself when they assaulted him. He writes that he bought up crack pipes from corner stores so that they could not be used and he made himself visible in his neighborhood so that people knew who he was.

While his disclosures about the things he would do to organize the neighborhood and drive out criminals are captivating alone, his allegations about Council Member Pam Murray, particularly with regard to irregularities he charges in her campaign, are the big attention-grabbers:

I thought the best way to change the neighborhood was through the local elected officials. The Mayor and his office were pretty good to us. And our Council Lady was pretty good at first. I eventually found out that she was involved (at least casually) in the drugs and crime that ran rampant in the area ....

[In 2007,] I fielded an opposition candidate and lost .... Still, the election was close. We faced an opponent that gave out "walking around" money, burgers if you voted for her (within 10 feet of the polling areas), and was widely supported by the local drug dealers. I was a poll watcher in McFerrin Park and witnessed 4 fraudulent voters who claimed to live in houses owned by my friends. One bearded, inked, old white guy claimed to live at the same address as two open lesbians. He was followed to another polling station where he also voted. Eventually I shut down the polling station and had to talk the police out of arresting me while we waited on election officials to respond to my complaints. Did I mention that the polling station was ENTIRELY run by the oppositions camp?

If these allegations are true, they make the whole electronic vs. paper ballot debate look like a tame game of red rover.

The "Democratic" Congress Joined the President to Sell Us Down the River

Democrats abdicate and compromise Americans' right to redress grievances and violations through the court system to George W. Bush and Big Telecom. As always, AT&T wins, and I have to assume that our own Blue Dog Congressman Jim Cooper (a "Joe Lieberman" by any other name?) has been promoting this "compromise" for his big-ticket constituents in the Batman Building:

The proposal allows a district judge to examine what are believed to be dozens of written directives given by the Bush administration to the phone companies after the Sept. 11 attacks authorizing them to engage in wiretapping without warrants. If the court finds that such directives were in fact provided to the companies that are being sued, any lawsuits “shall be promptly dismissed,” the proposal says.

Even Democratic officials, who had initially opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies, conceded there was a high likelihood that the lawsuits would have to be dismissed under the standards set out in the proposal. That possibility infuriated civil liberties groups, which said the cursory review by a district judge would amount to the de facto death of the lawsuits.

It's Not Like Mortgages are a Common Thing at Country Clubs

Sure, it's important to find out whether there is the appearance of influence peddling among mortgage lenders and the U.S. Senate, but are we really surprised to find out that wealthy men and women have no need of mortgages? Like Nashville Realtors, I would bet that mortgage lenders come up with other creative means of maintaining their competitive advantage, even if that advantage involves some dubious lobbying tactics.

Realtors' State of Denial?

So much for the notion of "this house sells itself":

Home sales were down 28 percent in May compared with the year before, according to the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors.

The same survey showed the number of single-family homes, condos and other residential properties on the market topped 25,000 for the first time last month.

But unlike housing markets in the Northeast, the West and Florida, rising inventory and slowing sales did not translate into lower prices on Nashville's "For Sale" signs.

Instead, Realtors are counting on incentives, not slashed prices, to close the deal.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ardelia Park Design Is from a Catalog? Metro Planner Asks for a "product specifically designed for the site"

The Metro Planner vested with review of R.C. Hazzard's Ardelia Park concept at the corner of 7th Avenue, North and Garfield Street expressed concerns about the design, which Mr. Hazzard made clear he will not change at an April Salemtown community meeting.

The planner, Jason Swaggart, maintained that he believes that Metro policy calls for a design that "fits" the context of Garfield. Here is his explanation of why he believes that Mr. Hazzard's plans do not fit that context:
First thing is the orientation of the corner unit and how it lacks a strong edge along Garfield or 7th and is not consistent with the existing building pattern. I have tried to address this concern with the proposed product type by moving the buildings around, but it simply does not work. It appears that the proposed product is from a catalog and does not necessarily work for this site, and it would be better if a product specifically designed for this site were used. Other concerns with the proposed product are that each unit appears to be exactly the same and that it does not provide any variety to the streetscape, nor does it fit the urban context of the area and is more of a suburban design.
I heard the same criticisms about the units' lack of variety and their suburban look when I attended the April meeting.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Ardelia Park design on June 26 at 4:00 at Metro Southeast (1417 Murfreesboro Pike, Green Hills Conference Room).

But not a real green dress; that's cruel

The great local love affair of the century continues.

More on One of the Most Unscrupulous Businesses Located in Nashville

We need more dirt like this dug up by the media, given CCA's rap sheet and its collusion with ICE. It's a fertile field ripe for sharp media plows in the home quarters as well as at CCA gulags around the country. But this is progress:
CCA's well-respected CEO, John Ferguson, sits on the elite board of the Nashville symphony while corporate counsel Gus Puryear belongs to the rich and lilly white Belle Meade Country Club. So, unlike the families in their care, Gus and John probably take for granted the luxury of a quiet moment on the throne.
They have to find something to do with their cut of the $3 million per month CCA gets from our taxes in exchange for keeping innocent kids in cells for hours with no toys or diversions and under threat of being taken from their parents. There may not be a place in prison for corporate officers who tolerate the abuse of children, but there ought to be a part of hell with their names on it.

An Important Day in the History of Human Emancipation

Facing South reminds us that today is Juneteenth, a celebration of the day in 1865 when Union troops rode into Galveston, TX bringing with them news that the Texas slaves had been free for 2 years (a fact that white Texan slaveowners kept secret, along with news of Lee's surrender two months before).

When I was growing up in Texas I remember Juneteenth being a quasi-holiday that got a lot of publicity. When I was in high school it became an official Texas holiday. I've rarely heard anything of it since moving to Tennessee.

Happy Juneteenth, freedom lovers! Even in Tennessee!

The Great Mancini Wants to Know

What's the fracking big deal?

Mission Finally Accomplished

Big oil scores no-bid contracts to pump Iraq's oil for the first time in 36 years.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eric Crafton Has Something to Hide

P.J. Tobia continues to chip away at the foundations of Eric Crafton's single-minded intention of being a catalyst of conservative get-out-the-vote in the fall on the issue of the English language immigration. Despite CM Crafton's political purposes in starting a website and a petition, he is not being transparent about who the movers and shakers with the money are behind his initiative.

Crafton has been robocalling in advance of the ballot, just like any other political campaigner. However, he's found a loop hole in the law that allows a private citizen who just happens to be an elected official to finance a ballot campaign based on legislation he has sponsored without having to report donors until he gets enough signatures to put it on a ballot. The "Nashville English First" website oozes partisan politics beneath the mascara of patriotism. Lipstick on a pig.

For someone who seems to strut at council meetings--pronouncing with attitude, like he is entitled to explanations from every party with whom he takes issue--he has a troubling knack for coy evasion about who is funding his revived, retooled English Only bill. There must be a goodly number of eye-brow-raisers on that list.


UPDATE: Southern Beale upbraids the media, which seems more satisfied with editorializing against Eric Crafton at the expense of hard-hitting investigative journalism that might show that the emperor has no clothes:
I’d really be interested in knowing who’s behind this. Surely it can’t be too hard to track? Isn’t there someone–anyone in our local media–who can find this out? No? Then y’all are useless as far as I’m concerned.
Wouldn't it be awesome if reporters actually competed to see who could dig up the most dirt behind English Only? Stop wasting time on publicizing Crafton's moves and on paper-posturing editorials and get the public news it cannot get on its own, like a list of donors to this political campaign.


UPDATE: Chris Sanders says Crafton should probably be disclosing according to TN Registry of Election Finance.

Restaurants Fight Attrition Warfare?

Reports from Midtown neighborhood leaders about today's scheduled court hearing with the Bound'ry and South Street Crab Shack on two recent noise citations suggest that the owners may be trying to wear down their opposition by forcing them to mobilize for cases that don't end up being held. I was told that Bound'ry/South Street citations were paid last Friday, a fact that was not announced until after Midtown leaders had waited at least an hour for their case to be heard. As a result the leaders and their lawyers were made to sit and wait in a crowded court room (with DUIs and other offenders having cases in the same place), burning an hour of their own time.

What's a Metro noise citation cost? $25? $50? Probably nothing compared to the time that neighbors put in to being available to testify and compared to the lawyers' fees involved. Now the Bound'ry and South Street will likely turn up the decibels again betting that future citations will not move as many people to act. It's a similar issue to the neighborhoods vs. developers issue. Developers have more time and resources to game the system than neighborhoods do. Business can commit petty infractions that don't cost them nearly as much as they do their neighbors in lost sleep and lost time in a court room. And aren't lawyers' tricks fun?



UPDATE: Check out this morsel of hypocrisy on the Bound'ry website:
The courtyard patio faces a quiet neighborhood street for fun dining during the spring, summer and fall.
Yeah, quiet until the Bound'ry's speakers get turned up real loud. Owner Jay Pennington seems to make his money off the benefits of being on a quiet neighborhood street without returning the favor to the neighborhood.

Suburban Decay and the "Beginning of the End of Sprawl"

New Urbanism spurred by empty-nest baby-boomers and "millennials" causing market shifts away from surburbia. "McMansions will become the new multi-family home for the poor" because cities are becoming less affordable. Cities that keep up with the urban trends are investing in better public transportation, which often includes multi-family mixed use next to transit stations. Welcome to the rebirth of the street car neighborhood?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Texas GOP Strains It's Cred

With it's convention machinery popping rivets, leaking oil, and bursting seams (thanks, Ron Paul), the Texas Republicans cannot afford such tacky stupidity.

(BTW, the GOP button that says, "Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Deportation" sounds like a souvenir that ought to be offered at Eric "English Only" Crafton's new referendum website. I wonder if he's going to merchandise his product in conjunction with the GOP?)

Reminder: Bound'ry/South Street Has Its Day in Court Against Midtown Neighbors Tommorrow

1:00 tomorrow afternoon, and Midtown leaders have been encouraging put-upon and noise-weary neighbors to show up and perhaps testify about both recent problems with restaurateurs and those that stretched back to the 1970s.

Metro Council Approves Substitute Budget and Gives Bill Purcell a Few More Licks for Good Measure

CM Erik Cole said that public transportation was the highest priority in the substitute budget, and the Budget and Finance Committee put money for the bus routes that the Mayor eliminated back into the budget. Substitute budget provides an additional $1,000,000 for MTA. Money was also provided for magnet school students riding MTA.

Vivian Wilhoite told they council that they missed the mark on the issue that they ran on: public safety. She's voting for it, but called it "tough" with regard to supporting fire fighters. Wow. We actually have some debate on the Mayor's budget.

Charlie Tygard thanked the Mayor for his "openness and willingness to listen." He called last year's finance department numbers "bogus reality." Looks like he's using the occasion to continue his vendetta against the Purcell administration. He was out of order for focusing on Purcell and the Vice Mayor didn't stop him. And the symbolism of CM Tygard supporting Mayor Dean is ugly to me.

Michael Craddock also blamed Bill Purcell, saying that the problem was not the council's (oh yeah? What about those discretionary funds that Metro Council was in charge of last term that got spent on very few Metro services, like summer Parks programming?) and not Mayor Dean's. He totally ignored the sidewalks and other infrastructure that got funded under the Purcell administration. It's also an exaggeration to lay this year's budget challenges completely at the feet of the previous administration, which had no control over the tanking of the economy. He should have blamed George W. Bush's inept domestic policy and Republican-controlled Congresses (including the current one that is Democratic in name only).

Well, we got a minuscule amount of debate and the expected absolution and praise of Karl Dean. Substitute budget passed. Next year they won't be able to blame Bill Purcell. He should be free and clear.

Accountability from Fire Department Managers

During council proceedings, CM Michael Craddock compared a quarter of a million dollar out-of-court settlement to "a big stick" used to beat taxpayers over the head, and he maintained that someone in the Fire Department responsible for the oversight should have been fired. The council deferred the motion to settle one meeting.

Anti-English-Only Funding Resolution to Be Introduced at Tonight's Meeting

Tonight the Metro Council can vote to accept a $25,000 State of Tennessee grant to provide interpreter services for indigent defendants with limited English proficiency.

What the hell are Tennessee taxpayers doing funding interpreters for indigent immigrants? According to CM Eric Crafton that makes them shiftless. He insists that providing services in other languages makes it harder for foreigners to learn English. We'll see if he chooses to fight this bill even though it requires no matching funds from Metro. It's free money. But according to Crafton, his fight is on principle and patriotism; so, if he is as authentic as he claims to be about English, then he should fight this resolution tonight. And he should get some support, given that a number of members who voted with him last time are back this term.


UPDATE: I can see Eric Crafton sitting in Council Chambers, and he did not lift a finger to oppose this grant, even as it violated the principle of English Only. I would call that further evidence that his "English First Only" ballot initiative is not about immigrants learning English. It's about influencing elections in the fall by mobilizing conservatives with lightning rod issues.

Not That I Have Clear Convictions about Term Limits

CM Sam Coleman has a resolution that looks like it would effectively permit term-limited district seat members to run for a consecutive at-Large term, thus avoiding the legal problems and ethical questions that Charlie Tygard caused last election (remember "Re-Elect Charlie"?). I think there are strong arguments for not having term limits, but does Coleman's resolution not seem like self-serving legalization (rather than closing) of the term-limit loop hole?


UPDATE: Resolution deferred indefinitely with no explanation.

Not Just Any "Cat Herd" Round-Up Tonight

The "Cat Herd" meets tonight, and look for the Mayor's budget to sail through without even the slightest hint of criticism and with a lot of self-congratulations and tributes to Mayor Dean.



Since effectively herding cats is not really hearding cows, Cowboy Karl is more of a Catboy, given his skill at driving the these "half-wild shorthairs" down the budget trail.


UPDATE: Freddie O'Connell comments that thanks to CM Erik Cole, it will not entirely be the Mayor's budget, as cuts to MTA were mitigated:
Erik Cole actually passed an amended budget out of the Budget and Finance Committee yesterday that reallocated an additional $1 million to MTA to help offset their $2.9 million budget gap. That's the only significant difference between the Council budget and the mayor's that I know of, though.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We Need a Holiday: Straight from the "Developers Playbook"

No more than a week ago and straight from Occasional Muse, I posted some of the dirty tricks that some developers use to avoid public scrutiny and feedback on their proposed developments. Here was one of the first developer strategies the Muse relayed:

Schedule Legislation so that the Public Hearing falls near a Holiday

When dealing with a proposed development that you anticipate would face significant community opposition, it is important you get the timing right. Bring your proposals to the Council Member at a time that will allow you to ensure that the Public Hearing takes place at a time that it is inopportune.

One of the most popular Council Meeting dates for such an activity is the first one of the year that often falls one or two days after the new year holiday. Other good dates to avoid public scrutiny include those near the 4th of July

According to signs put up around at the proposed Ardelia Park site at 7th Av. N. and Garfield St., the Metro Council Public Hearing of the proposal is scheduled for July 1, a time when people are checking out for the 4th of July holiday weekend.

I would like to believe that the scheduling was coincidental, but both concerns and opposition were expressed at the community meeting, and the Planning Department seems to be opposed to the plan, so the holiday-proximate scheduling looks a little suspicious to me.

ACORN Gives TN AG a "B" on Protecting Homeowners

In a study released this month by a community organization representing low- and moderate- income families, 51 states Attorneys General were rated based on "aggressive and creative" leadership in helping to address the bad apples of the housing crisis. The report stipulates that the best practices include "actively seeking real data from mortgage servicing companies, pursuing cutting-edge cases against the industry’s bad actors, speaking out on matters of state and federal importance, putting their offices to work for distressed borrowers, cracking down on vulturine rescue scams, and pushing the industry to perform better for their constituents."

Tennessee AG Robert Cooper (D) was given a "B" by ACORN, and he received scores of zeroes on advocating federal predatory lending protections and federal bankruptcy reforms as well as on pressuring unregulated and unlicensed mortgage industry servicers to improve their performance in preventing foreclosures. The report did not provide explanation on their marks on any of the AGs beyond those who received "A+".

"Free" Trade Shrimp Results in Bondage a "Little Short of Medieval"

80% of the shrimp consumed by Americans is imported despite both the productive local industries and the huge carbon footprint caused by transporting Asian shrimp halfway around the world to American tables.

Worse than the damage to local industry and the environment are the slave-like conditions that Asian workers face thanks to "free" trade:

Workers told Thai police who raided one factory in September 2006 “that if they made a mistake on the shrimp peeling line, asked for sick leave, or tried to escape, they could expect to be beaten, sexually molested, or publicly tortured,” ....

The plant, Ranya Paew, “was more like a fortress than a factory, with 16-foot-high barbed-wire capped walls, an armed guard force, and an extensive internal closed-circuit television system,” the Solidarity Center alleged, citing Thai police reports.

“Behind the walls, the police found a scene that one report described as ‘little short of medieval,’ with hundreds of workers literally trapped inside the compound, living in squalid conditions, forced to work long hours, and subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual intimidation and abuse. Workers who angered the employer were often ‘put to shame’ in front of others by having their hair cut or shaved in patches. Women and girls were stripped naked and publicly beaten as a form of discipline.”

The report says the owner of the factory, who was charged with some offenses, received little in the way of punishment.

“Despite widespread worker rights abuses, including child labor and human trafficking, the owner was charged only with employing children under 15 and failing to provide holidays and time off. Though these charges are serious, they were treated as first-time labor code violations. The owner initially only paid a fine of about $2,100 and has returned to work.”

The report, “The Degradation of Work: The True Cost of Shrimp,” also contains information from interviews with workers in Thailand and Bangladesh. The labor rights organization did not name the workers, saying they could suffer retaliation from employers if their identities were not protected.

“In April 2007, workers at a factory owned by a major Thai shrimp processing company spoke with Solidarity Center partners, alleging hazardous working conditions as well as an intimidating and discriminatory work environment. Workers complained of forced overtime and nonpayment of wages if production quotas were missed. They also claimed regular exposure to harsh chemicals, lack of access to first aid or health care, and poor air and drinking water quality.

“They additionally alleged that they had unexplained deductions from their pay, that they worked without a written contract, and that native Thais and migrant workers were segregated by the use of colorcoded uniforms.”

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Political Blogging: Partisan vs. Socratic

In his massive work, A History of Philosophy, Oxford Jesuit Priest Frederick Copleston wrote the following about Socrates:
[Socrates] went where he could do the greatest good to anyone, seeking "to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the State before he looks to the interests of the State" .... He was no mere pedantic logician, no mere destructive critic, but a man with a mission ....As is clear from Socrates' life, he was not concerned with party politics as such, but with political life in its ethical aspect. It was of the greatest importance for the Greek who wished to lead the good life to realise what the State is and what being a citizen means, for we cannot care for the State unless we know the nature of the State and what a good State is.
It seems that assessing whether political blogging is more or less socratic depends on how bound it is to advance the campaign strategy of the moment and on how far it goes to reopen settled or stale lightning rod issues to debate for higher purposes even when they don't serve party interests.

More partisan blogging does not seem to take the same risks as socratic blogging does, and yet, it is more likely to get more links and pageloads because of the sheer conventionality of party politics.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

S-townMike as a Medical and Insurance Case Study for the Cavalcade of Capitalists

I was going through our medical bills this morning and I found $264 dollars that the Vanderbilt Medical Center charged me for a test that according to my doctor ended up being "not processed properly as ordered." No where on the bill is the $264 credited. There was also a $45 blood test that did yield results according to my MD. My insurance company credited the $309 bill $222.04 for "contractual discount," which friends in the medical profession tell me is a standard discount that insurance companies give to hospitals for supplies and service. And my MD tells me that I will need to do the test over again in the future.

Do you see the problem here? Not only is the hospital going to make a percentage of the $87.00 that they say I owe on a test that they screwed up, but the insurance company is going to count a percentage of the $222 they paid toward a total lump sum of expenses that they will use to calculate future costs to be passed along to consumers. Once I am charged a second time for the test, then both the medical and insurance entrepreneurs will be guilty of double-dipping for what will be only a single set of results. If the hospital labs screwed up the test, then the hospital should eat the loss and not pass them along to their consumers and the insurance company discount should not be paid on the charges.

But do you think that Vanderbilt Medical Center or the insurance company really care about questions of fairness when it comes to passing along future costs to consumers? I'm going to fight these overcharges for the sake of my own pocketbook, but what if this irresponsible billing occurs on a more widespread basis? Who's going to fight the societal costs of hospitals demanding payment for services not rendered?

Amen to that. And the blogosphere is a little too maudlin about it, too.

The Russert coverage shows that the TV News Media takes themselves way too seriously.

- - Jackson Miller tells it like it is via Twitter

MetroPolicy for MetroNation

The Brookings Institution recommends a new federal policy framework after next year's presidential inaugeration to address the lack of a "MetroPolicy" aimed at enabling local, regional, and private-sector leaders to meet the nation’s challenges and opportunities.

Here are some of the details of the MetroPolicy Brookings is advancing (click to enlarge):


On first glance (I need to read the report more closely), they seem more centrist, less bold in relying on market-based and tax-credit solutions. But some action on developing effective policy for "maximizing" Metro growth and sustainability is better than the lack of policy and the poor leadership the federal government has exercised in the last decade.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Señor Crafton's English is Found Wanting



NashPo catches the irony of the bad English in Eric "English Only" Crafton's plea to Davidson County voters to put his baby on the ballot.

Tennessean Catches Up to Eric "English Only" Crafton

The Tennessean points out this morning that the ballot referendum version of English Only does not have a provision that the original council bill did for health and safety exceptions. So, basically, if 10,000 of Eric Crafton's drones sign this, and then a rabid, but critical mass of the 1/3 of all Davidson County voters who typically vote make this law in November, then you better hope that the person who calls 911 when your house is on fire or your daughter is being raped or your father is having a heart attack speaks fluent English. Should that Good Samaritan speak mainly Spanish or Kurdish, then you're screwed, and if you sign Crafton's petition or vote for English Only in November, then just call the screwing "karma." The problem is that the rest of us innocent saps who either don't sign or vote "No" (or don't vote) for fear of driving out the angels of our better nature are screwed, too.

But thank God for the ACLU:

Should the proposed Metro charter amendment make it onto the ballot and then become law, it could represent a violation of the First and 14th Amendments — the ones guaranteeing free speech and equal protection under the law — said Hedy Weinberg, American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee's executive director.

"Does this mean you can't dial 911 and tell the operator in some other language about a crime that you fear is taking place next door, or in your own home?" said Weinberg, "These policies don't celebrate the cultural pluralism that makes this city so special. They try to crush it."

I've let my ACLU membership lapse, and I'd also like to thank Eric Crafton for motivating me to renew it once again. Good things grow out of manure.

Obama's Wall Street Economic Team May Give the Campaign a Media-Friendly Crisis Mentality about Social Security, "Free" Trade

As much as he would like to see Barack Obama set a progressive economic agenda, economist Dean Baker acknowledges the political realities partly dictated by the mainstream media. He sees more Wall Street than Main Street in Obama's team. And that mentality plays into the dominant media bias and half-truths.

Social Security is a case in point:

They have trumpeted the Social Security "crisis" for more than a quarter century, convincing the bulk of the public that the program is on the edge of bankruptcy. While proponents of the crisis view are all over the news, editorial pages, and pundit shows, the basic facts about the program's finances are almost never mentioned.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the program can pay all scheduled benefits for nearly 40 years with no changes whatsoever. And even if nothing is ever changed, Social Security will always be able to pay future retirees a higher benefit (adjusted for inflation) than current retirees receive. Where's the crisis?

And the media does its best to avoid talking about the failings of the Wall Street agenda. Did you see that great piece about how awful retirees would have fared if we had put their Social Security money in the stock market in the late 90s as the privatizers advocated? I missed that one too.

Baker also cites the false dichotomies of "free trade" vs. protectionism in the Wall Street/media mentality, which also ignores the inequities in the market that already generate selective protectionism under the guise of a "free market."

You cannot have a serious debate with the Wall Street mentality, because the sky is falling, and if you dare question market inequities, then you get labeled as a xenophobic, Lou Dobbs clone. It's all hysteria and adhominems and unquestioned dogma.

Chicago Suburb Outlaws Window Mounted AC Units

This ordinance had to be written by people with central AC. A window mounted unit is not nearly as ugly as a DirectTV dish sticking out of the side of a house. Sounds a bit heartless to me.

The Only Local Media Blog that Is Critically Examining Eric "English Only" Crafton

While the City Paper is busy being Eric Crafton's tool on the issue of starting a petition to put an English Only referendum on the ballot (and the Tennessean coverage is just weak), the Nashville Scene's P.J. Tobia is actually blogging the controversy with a critical eye and actually keeping tabs on the opposition.

This week, Tobia has two PiTW posts on the rising opposition to English Only. The NCP's blog, Political Animals, has nothing, and as I've pointed out, their hard copy looks either apathetic about or sympathetic to English Only's flawed premise that mandating English Only would actually make non-English speakers learn faster than they already are.

And in related news: Crafton is not running on the strength of the concept of English Only alone. He is pushing it with the following robo-call (courtesy of Southern Beale):

Please help Metro Councilman Eric Crafton make English the official language of city government in Nashville. He needs to collect 15,000 signed petitions by August 15 to put a referendum on the ballot to let the voters decide if they want their government to operate in English, or pay for their government to operate in languages ranging from Spanish to Arabic.



BREAKING UPDATE: The City Paper's blog, Political Animals, has today actually posted something on English Only. Oh, wait, it's more about Enclave than Eric Crafton. Never mind.

I would really like to see journalists ask Eric Crafton more than "What do you hope to accomplish with the petition and ballot referendum?" Something like, "What evidence do you have that forcing Metro employees only to use English is going to make Spanish-speakers learn English, since providing vital government services is not exactly like teaching English?" Or how about, "If one person's life could be saved with a Metro dispatcher speaking Kurdish to a 911 caller, is risking an English Only law really worth the effort?"

I didn't claim that the NCP was a tool in their past editorial pages, although in 2007 their reporters did provide Eric Crafton a lot of publicity free from the critical questioning or attention to his inconsistencies that he was due then, too. But why endure Crafton's crap again months before leveling some hard questions at the petition? Why should we wait for an election eve editorial against English Only before we ask journalists to focus on the holes instead of the image? They have a blog, for the love of Mike.


UPDATE: Looks like the Animals broke out of the zoo to publish an editorial against English Only with their Voices. Now if the editors would just have their reporters ask Eric Crafton tougher questions during interviews.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Swimming Lessons

She pretty much told CM Charlie Tygard to go jump in a lake for all of his recent posturing to the media against swimming in the Cumberland. CM Emily Evans plans to join several other Nashville leaders in a June 19 swim across the Cumberland in order to raise awareness about water quality.

Question the swim meet if you like but I like CM Evans' deftness and moxy in calling out her colleague for making himself rather than clean water the center of attention. Here's an email reply she copied to Michael Cass after Tygard copied his to Cass:

since it is my turn in your ceaseless quest to generate controversy and division within the Council, I will respond to some of your concerns ....
It is a requirement of the EPA permit issued to Davidson County to raise awareness and educate Davidson County residents on water quality. Thanks in no small part to you we will probably raise more public awareness about the health and importance of the Cumberland River than any class room visit MWS shall do all year. In short, the Cumberland River swim can be seen as part of the mission and the mandate of Metro Water Services. (I think nothing drives this point home more than the participation in the swim of Paul Davis from TDEC.)
Much of the time dedicated to this event has been volunteer time from Cumberland River Compact and interested individuals. I was under the impression that you supported the missions and aims of non-profits like CRC and affiliated organizations like Harpeth River Watershed, but I guess not. I have informed Chief Halford that I would be more than willing to reimburse the fire department for fuel costs. In the interests of consistency, I will extend that offer to include any fire trucks that come to my district for various summer celebrations like July 4th. I hope you will do the same ....

Without the Cumberland River, this city would not be here. For decades we polluted it. When cow carcasses floated downstream from Neuhoff, your fear was justified. Much has changed and a lot of it has to do with the dedication and work of Metro Water Services, TDEC and the EPA with funding support from Council and the Mayor. I do not understand why you would begrudge them a little acknowledgement of that effort. I personally think all involved have been underappreciated in this regard ....
Lastly, Charlie, I am aware of the drowning death at the quarry and I cannot tell you how sorry I am that the victim's family and the Bellevue community has had that to endure. However, I cannot believe you would attempt to politicize that tragedy as you have done today. I would encourage you to spend your time teaching others about the importance of water safety rather than asking folks not to swim.
Dolphin kick to the chops.


UPDATE: City Paper ignores Tygard's grandstanding and focuses on Evans' goals and resolution to improve Nashville's water source.

C'mon and Take a Free Ride

M. Cass points out that third and final reading of the Mayor's budget has been moved up ahead of schedule. I interpret that to mean that it will sail through with no council resistance. Talk about your soft touch. With practically no resistance at all, they are putting themselves in a seat next to Mayor Dean that could get very hot over the next 13 months.

Karl Dean Earns Kay Brooks' Endorsement

When a homeschooler--who stepped ahead of the constituents and rode the local GOP through the backdoor of the School Board--advocates turning the public education reins over to the Mayor, is there something terribly wrong in the Mayor's Office? Or has Nashville fallen completely down the rabbit hole and tumbled into the land of the absurd?

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not Good for the North End: New Urbanism's Variations on White Flight

According to Jeff Woods, "Chamber of Commerce types" lobbied the School Board and the Redistricting Task Force to exempt Germantown, Hope Gardens, Salemtown, and Downtown from the MNPS redistricting plan because allegedly white parents here do not want to send their kids to school with black kids. This news couldn't have come at a worse time for the neighborhoods, given that the four presidents of the neighborhoods' associations were called together by HGI President Stacy Mosley to draft a letter opposing the plan roughly about the time that the lobbying commenced at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored conference in Miami, FL. The timing sucks dry any credibility the letter might have had, in my opinion, and I have to wonder if there was some coordination between the Chamber's lobbying and the calling of the presidents together.

While I already declared my opposition to Ms. Mosley's reasons for signing the letter, I was opposed to the redistricting plan because I thought that a neighborhood school needed to be placed in the old Fehr School Building in Salemtown rather than using Buena Vista. But I would have raised all kinds of objections about SNNA President Freddie O'Connell signing the letter if I would have known at the time what was going down in Florida. To his credit, Freddie has already told us that he was signing it not for the group but as an individual. And in a June 3 letter to the association he gave his personal reasons for signing, and he was explicit in his opposition to white flight:
I will not sign my name to anything I suspect of indicating a white flight mentality. Ultimately, I believe that neighborhood schools will play a critical role in revitalizing Nashville's public school system. For the reasons I cite in this letter, however, I'm not sure that this step taken in this way at this time is the best step toward neighborhood schools.
However, it is unfortunate that Salemtown is being associated now with what looks like a new urbanist strain of white flight. I wonder how much Ms. Mosley knew about the lobbying that she didn't divulge when she called the presidents together.

Finally and for the record, despite the Woods' characterization of young white professionals in these neighborhoods, we've never referred to ourselves as "urban pioneers" (every reference to "pioneers" on Enclave since 2005 is someone else's quote). Frankly, the people that seem to like referring to urban dwellers like us as "pioneers" are the Realtors and developers who are trying to invent and market a lifestyle that doesn't exist in reality. Also, the broad generalization that white parents don't want to send their kids to school with black kids may be true of the Chamber of Commerce types lobbying against the plan, but it is not true of all of us who live in these neighborhoods.


UPDATE: Task Force sticks by its guns, but adds three additional public hearings (which should have been scheduled in the first place), including one at MetroCenter/Buena Vista's John Early Middle. I'm pretty sure that Salemtown is not in the Hillsboro cluster as Amy Griffith reports; it's in the Hillwood cluster.

Metro Planning Says "Don't Call Us" [According to District 17 Listserv]

This email from Metro Planning's Craig Ow[e]nsby was posted on the Council District 17 listserv:

You want to know - Is it a Condo, Townhouse or PUD? (Don't call us)

We're getting a LOT more calls, about four times as many as in the past, asking whether a development is a condo (development) or townhouse (development) and/or what its common or private elements may be.

We can't answer those questions any more. There are just too many calls to handle.

You can, though, get the necessary information by checking the property deed and any associated master deed at the Register of Deeds' office (website below), or through a real-estate attorney.

We will continue to verify zoning and PUD status on specific properties.


Questions or comments: Craig Owensby - Public Information Officer, Metro Planning 862-7192 craig.owen@nashville.gov



CLARIFICATION: Craig Owensby sent me the following e-mail:
that post about our phone calls was REALLY misleading. For the original version with no parenthetical comments added, go to our page at nashville.gov/mpc and click "development dispatch" on the lower left... nowhere does it say "don't call us." and it doesn't misspell my name two different ways, either.