Friday, January 30, 2009

Duke Scientists' News Release on "Severe Health Implications" of TVA Spill

This is not good, and it is worse than TVA let on or the EPA originally reported:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009

CONTACT: Tim Lucas
(919) 613-8084


Note to editors: Avner Vengosh can be reached at (919) 681-8050 or Photos of the research area can be viewed at

DURHAM, N.C. -- A report by Duke University scientists who analyzed water and ash samples from last month's coal sludge spill in eastern Tennessee concludes that "exposure to radium- and arsenic-containing particulates in the ash could have severe health implications" in the affected areas.

"Our radioactive measurements of solid ash samples from Tennessee suggests the ash has radiation levels above those reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for typical coal ash," said Avner Vengosh, associate professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. "Preventing the formation of airborne particulate matter from the ash that was released to the environment seems essential for reducing possible health impacts."

More than a billion gallons of sludge coal waste spilled from a holding facility at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston coal-burning power plant on Dec. 22. The ash-laden waste flooded more than 400 surrounding acres and spilled into a tributary of the Emory River, which converges with the Clinch River and flows into the Tennessee River, a major source of drinking water for many communities in the region. The spill was so large it partly dammed the tributary of the Emory River, turning it into a standing pond.

Vengosh's team found that the combined content of radium-228 and radium-226 - the two long-lived isotopes of radium - in the solid ash samples they collected from the TVA spill measured about 8 picocuries per gram. That's higher than the average 5-6 picocuries per gram reported by the EPA in most bottom and fly ash samples. The curie is a standard measure of the intensity of radioactivity.

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element that decays from uranium and thorium elements in coal. When the coal is burned, it is concentrated in the ash. The EPA classifies radium as a Group-A carcinogenic material, which means exposure to it could cause cancer.

Water samples collected and analyzed by Vengosh and Duke graduate student Laura Ruhl found high levels of arsenic, measuring 95 parts per billion, in water from the dammed tributary where coal ash has accumulated. Only low concentrations were found in the Emory and Clinch rivers. The EPA has set the arsenic standard for safe public drinking water at 10 parts per billion.

Arsenic is a toxic metal that can occur naturally in the environment or as a by-product of some agricultural and industrial activities. According to the EPA, the effects of long-term chronic exposure to arsenic can include increased risk of certain types of cancer, as well as skin damage and circulatory problems.

"The good news is, we detected only trace amounts of arsenic in waters beyond the dammed tributary," Vengosh said. "The data suggests that in less than three weeks since the spill, river flow has diluted the arsenic content. The river is clean, but the water from areas like the dammed tributary, where the coal ash has accumulated, still contains high arsenic levels."

Vengosh is an internationally cited expert on the chemistry of radioactive elements in surface and ground waters. He has conducted extensive research on radon and radium contaminants in the ground waters of western North Carolina and the Middle East.

He and Ruhl collected the water and solid ash samples at sites affected by the TVA spill on Jan. 9. Duke research scientist Gary Dwyer analyzed the water samples for trace metal content using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Following preliminary analysis, the solid ash samples were incubated and underwent more detailed analysis of their radioactive content using gamma spectrometry.

Vengosh's team collected the samples from the TVA spill after being contacted by United Mountain Defense, a nonprofit environmental group based in Tennessee. The Duke researchers received no funding from the group or any other external party. All funding was provided by the Nicholas School, Vengosh said, "to maintain total impartiality in our analysis."

"The TVA spill is one of the largest events of its kind in U.S. history. It raises questions concerning the safety of storing coal ash and the potential effects of coal ash on environmental and human health," Vengosh said. "We hope our analysis will help provide some answers."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beaman Donated to Senator Who Has No Honor

English Only's primary wealthy donor, Lee Beaman, donated $68,000 to Republicans or conservative PACs in the last election cycle. $2,300 went to help Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, who beat Max Cleland in 2003 by plastering pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein across a anti-Cleland campaign ad. After college and grad school, Max Cleland had served America in the Vietnam War winning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for valorous service in battle, while Chambliss was a Sigma Chi frat boy getting several deferments from military service at the University of Georgia.

Chambliss does not lack honor because he didn't serve in Vietnam. Chambliss lacks honor because he never made that sacrifice and then bothered to question the loyalty of a decorated veteran who did. Lee Beaman funded a man without honor in November, just like he funded English Only's attacks on human dignity.

On behalf of my daughters, thank you, Mr. President

They will now grow up in a land where they can keep the faith that if they work hard they stand an equal chance of making what they deserve free from discrimination and male privilege. The world just got better not only for girls and women, but for fathers like me.

CRIME ALERT: North End Serial Burglar Suspect Photo Released, Suspect Literally Released

If you see the man in this photo, call police immediately.

He is suspected of at least 8 burglaries in Salemtown in the past 7 weeks and is also suspected of a Germantown Christmas burglary, according to the Salemtown association e-mail list.

According to police, Darren Lamont Hardemon had been incarcerated a few weeks ago, but he bonded out on Christmas Day. Hardmon is 5'9", 185 lbs, dark-complected African American, with brown eyes. His Nashville residence is on Delta Avenue (37208).

According to one Salemtown Neighbors commenter writing about a Germantown friend who was the victim of Hardemon's criminal past:
Hardemon completely wiped him out...he even stole toothpaste, toilet paper, and mouthwash! Hardemon clearly is not that bright and left fingerprints everywhere and since he was already in the system it didn't take long for him to be arrested. My friend went to a preliminary hearing on the case about 2 weeks ago and is scheduled to go back to court for the actual trial in approx. 3 months. In the mean while Hardemon was released on $10,000 bail (meaning his bond amount was only $1000).

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Metro on Zoning Issue

Suburban NIMBY got Metro nowhere, but the end--to the tune of $70,000 so far--is in sight:
The settlement, which must still be approved by the court, requires the Metropolitan Government to train nearly 100 employees and officials who make zoning and land use decisions on the requirements of the FHA and RLUIPA, to appoint a compliance officer to receive complaints and ensure compliance with the settlement, and to provide periodic reports to the Justice Department. As part of the settlement, the Metropolitan Government rescinded the amendment to its zoning code that affected Teen Challenge and adopted a reasonable accommodation policy for individuals with disabilities.

The Metropolitan Government will also pay a $20,000 civil penalty to the United States and $50,000 to participants in Teen Challenge’s program. Monetary relief to Teen Challenge is being determined by the final court order in the related case of Teen Challenge International, Nashville Headquarters, et al. v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.
When this blew up in the local media, the blame was placed almost exclusively on Metro Council, but just keep in mind that no council zoning issues pass without a Mayor's signature.

Instead of the typical big box convention center

Are we simply getting a wavy big box convention center?

And as far as I can tell, it will not incorporate any neighborhood usability outside of conventions. So, it will just sit like an empty, unused hulk taking up space when conventions aren't in town?

I believe convention centers should contribute more the conventioneer's money to the local community.

Surveying the Vacuum that is the Democratic Party

Tennessee Democrats look either spineless or ineffectual. I'm not the only one who ponders their failure to hit the ground running after electing a new chair to replace the air.  Here's R. Neal:
Tennessee politics has become a TNGOP free-fire zone, with Hobbs and Company firing at will at any moving target with impunity. There's no return fire, the Democratic Party appears to have gone MIA or deserted, and our distress signals have vanished into the ether unanswered.

But maybe we are jumping the gun, so to speak.

For all we know, newly elected TNDP chair Chip Forrester is hunkered down in the bunker with the top political generals and money men from around the state, laying out the battle plan, drawing up the maps and supply lines, and putting together an arsenal of ideas that will blow us away with its brilliance and audacity when it's unleashed.

Senate Republicans Aim to Deny Certain Children Health Insurance

If you've ever seen a child bullied on a playground because of the actions of her parents, you know that the taunts are malicious for no other reason than the kid had nothing to do her parents' choices. The stigma was misplaced on an innocent person.

By that same logic, Senate Republicans in DC are bullies playing on current right-wing anti-immigrant anger to bar the children of immigrants from SCHIP and thus deny them health insurance that other kids get.  These children didn't choose to be born to illegal immigrants and they probably had little to do with their parents immigration choices. Why should the kids be punished? Why do Republicans hold a certain class of innocent children in such low regard?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cool Hack

We need something like this in Nashville. Chattanooga's Chattarati has created "cash maps" for each candidate in their municipal elections. The maps pinpoint campaign donations on Google maps, so that, for instance you can find out that one of their city council candidates received a $250 donation from Nashville. One more click and you find that the Nashville donor was the Tennessee Realtors PAC.

Two Liberals on Different Sides of Transit Appropriations in Obama's Stimulus Package

One liberal who supports transit nonetheless argues against spending on high-speed transit as a means of stimulus:
The recession may last two years. That would make it the worst since World War II. It might last four years, which would be epochal. By contrast, optimistically a high-speed rail system takes two or three times as long to get from gleam in the eye to operational. If you want to maximize dollars' impact on the recession, that's too slow. Even a 'shovel-ready' project could take a decade. Twenty billion spent over ten years is not as good as $5 billion spent over two years, say for teachers' aides, hospital orderlies, Pell grants, pothole fillers, and broadband installers.

By and large, the stimulus impact of new money for big infrastructure projects is limited to architects, engineers, economists, environmental activists, consultants, and lawyers wrangling over plans. Lumberjacks too, considering the trees that are sacrificed for the cause.

The other point typically glossed over is that public investment will be channeled through state governments, and they will have their own ideas about what to do with the money.

Another liberal argues that investing in light-rail transit will yield high returns:
In terms of job creation, mass transit is one of the best investments that can be made. A study by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts shows that investment in public transit creates more jobs per dollar than spending for defense, tax cuts, health care, education, and home weatherization. This analysis shows that transit investments create 19 percent more jobs than new road construction.

Additionally, investments in transit – specifically fixed-rail transit – increase property values, especially if land use policies for the areas near transit stations allow for higher density uses. Transit systems also increase a region’s competitiveness in terms of attracting businesses and workers. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest advocates for the new light rail system in Charlotte, NC was the city’s chamber of commerce.

Cooper's First Big post-Bush Vote: with Republicans

Two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal sat down with Tennessee's Jim Cooper and brought back an omen regarding his conservative-Democrat wing called "Blue Dogs":
He smiles gently and says, "If we were to ally with the Republicans, we could swing any vote in the House of Representatives."
Today Jim Cooper was one of 11 Democrats voting with all of the Republicans against the House/Obama economic stimulus plan, which passed.

Corporate Cable News, Allegedly "Liberal," Looks to Republicans Twice as Much as Dems

No more anecdotes and innuendo about the so-called liberal media. Hard numbers show that the media trusts Republicans on economic stimulus more than they trust Democrats. If Dems have any backbone at all they'll do something about Foxification of corporate news media. It's the same media that is referring to Barack Obama as "pragmatic" in so far as he resists liberal orthodoxy more than conservative orthodoxy.

Ease of Immigration a Matter of Wealth?

The number of Mexicans coming to the U.S. has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. But don't let those old tapes play: nearly half are specialists or professionals, and many come legally through special work visas. Mexico is experiencing a brain drain to the U.S.

The "Courage of Lee Beaman"

Michael Cass underscores Lee Beaman's contributions to Eric Crafton's English Only this morning, and the responses Cass gets from Beaman and Crafton make the auto dealer sound like some kind of hero for Nashville. I have not checked to see how much Beaman donated to CM Crafton's campaigns for Metro Council, but that $6,000 to Nashville English First looks like an investment in the CM's political future, too.

Mr. Beaman's donorship history does not look that courageous to me:
  • The Center for Responsive Politics ranked Lee Beaman among the Top 15 Auto Industry Hard Money Contributors with the likes of Ford and Chrysler
  • Of his $122,781 in partisan donations during one five-year period, Beaman donated $250 to Democrats, and he lives in a state where the ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats are relatively slight
  • In 2004 Beaman donated $2,500 to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" a shadow campaign designed to keep George W. Bush in the White House by means of assassinating the character of Bush's opponent
  • Beaman and his wife Kelley donated $2,000 to Charlie Tygard's campaign while Tygard was attracting ethical questions and while Kelley lead an ethics in government advocacy group
  • Beaman contributed $15,000 to Tennessee Forum, which was designed to advance a far-right GOP agenda in the state capital.
  • Beaman donated $2,000 to California's Proposition 8 banning gay and lesbian marriages.
Mr. Beaman told the Tennessean that he contributed $6,000 to NEF without solicitation from Crafton. That self-initiated muscle-flexing is all fine and good, but it is amazing that the tough financial times that have most people strapped for cash don't seem to be bothering the auto scion's campaign financing habits at all.

If buying political influence on the right is what counts for courage nowadays, I'll take cowardice. If might makes right, I don't want to be right.

Do Newspapers Document Financial Interests in Controversial Stories? If Not, Why Not?

We demand that elected officials should disclose their major donors in order to be ethical.  It seems to me that we should also demand that journalists disclose dollar figures of ad buys by corporations that become the subjects of journalists' "objective" reports.

I cannot claim to know what dollar amount Lee Beaman pays the Tennessean for advertising. But I would bet that he pays a lot more than the $6,000 he donated to English Only. Assuming that he has paid them hundreds of thousands or even millions for automotive advertising, wouldn't the ethical thing be to divulge those ad sales and the Tennessean's financial interest against reporting less than attractive news about Mr. Beaman?

UPDATE: In fairness to the Tennessean, I did find past articles where they reported some of Lee Beaman's less attractive far-right donations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CRIME ALERT: Dark Grey Ford Taurus Reported to be Connected to Recent Salemtown Burglary Spree

North End residents should be on the lookout for a dark grey Ford Taurus and two young African American males in hoodies reported to be associated with a burglary yesterday on 6th Avenue North and one just a few hours ago on 5th Avenue North. On 6th, the burglars broke in through a side window. On 5th they kicked in the front door.

Salemtown has been experiencing what appears to be a rash of serial burglaries in the past two months with a number of houses broken into and electronics stolen, even with doors locked and alarm systems on.  The neighborhood association has met with police and detectives twice in the past week. Detectives believe that the suspect(s) live in this area.

UPDATE: While some reporters are trying to bring the pressure of the 4th Estate to bear against MNPD's traffic stops so that they can recreate in peace, I'd say we need more traffic stops in my neighborhood. In each of these burglaries the perpetrators are said to have drivers. Stop me. Stop my neighbors. Stop everyone until you catch some bad guys with a car full of stolen goods.

Lee Beaman may not count strictly as a resident of Nashville-Davidson Co.-proper, either

In response to my choice to count neither a Belle Meade resident nor a Memphis resident among Nashville-Davidson Co. residents giving to English Only, Southern Beale astutely points out that Lee Beaman is also a resident of an independent city: Oak Hill. That should have occurred to me when I saw that the address listed on the financial disclosure was actually the business address for the Beaman Automotive Group rather than Lee and Kelly Beaman's home address.

English Only and Proposition 8 Locally Coincide in Lee Beaman

Two facts make a third one curious.

The first fact is GM/Toyota dealer Lee Beaman contributed at least $6,000 to support English Only and the attempt to revise the Metro Charter to prohibit any language but English from being spoken.

The second fact is that GOP donor Lee Beaman contributed $2,000 to supporters of California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in that state.

Here's what is curious: in former Davidson Co. GOP Chair Jon Crisp's letter to the Election Commission, he cites the fallout after passage of Proposition 8 as a reason for his refusal to declare the major donors supporting English Only.

Coincidence or was Crisp attempting to conceal Beaman?

Deep Thought

Is ProEnglish a distracting, easy target for a financially-strapped mainstream media that may not want to be on Beaman Automotive Group's bad side at ad sales time?

Nashvillians Not Named Beaman Gave 1% of English Only Donations

One of the pitches Eric Crafton used to sell English Only to Nashvillians was that the opponents were not of the people, but of an economic elite that desired to keep the people down. However, the financial disclosure forms finally released by the Election Commission today show that Nashville English First had its own elite duo:  Virginia's ProEnglish and Nashville's auto scion and GOP funder, Lee Beaman.

From February 2007 through January 12, 2009, $84,467 in donations was collected by NEF. $82,500 arrived from Virginia. Subtract Lee Beaman's $1,000 contribution as well as some rich Belle Meade doctor's $125 (Belle Meade has independent city status from Nashville) and $100 from some guy in Memphis, and donors in Nashville-Davidson Co.-proper donating at least $100 gave less than $500 in 2 years to Eric Crafton's cause. By the way, for those of you prone to boycott: a Downtown bar was among those donors. There were also $263 in donations from those giving less than $100.  We do not know if they were Nashvillians, but let's be charitable and assume they were.  That is not even .9% of English Only donations over the two year period.

I am not surprised that Lee Beaman kicked in $5,000 to supplement his original $1,000 after January 12.  Nashvillians not named Beaman were only showing .9% of overall financial support, and that is embarrassing for a group claiming to "unite" Nashville. Between January 12 & 15 only $200 more came in from Nashvillians not named Beaman giving at least $100.  $55 came in from donors not giving at least $100, and once again, let's be charitable even as the hammer falls.  Nashvillians not named Beaman were barely funding English Only at a 1% clip a week before the referendum, even as it appeared that the auto dealer's $5,000 was a bump in local donations.

Over 85% of the total Nashville-Davidson Co. donations listed on the reports (excluding Belle Meade and Memphis contributors) is Lee Beaman's.  Crafton's movement (a term I use loosely) should have been called "English First, officially sponsored by the Beaman Automotive Group," because outside of Lee Beaman, Nashvillians thought so much of NEF that they gave it very little financial help.

News 2 Posts Entire English Only Financial Disclosure Forms

Kudos to Christian Grantham who posts the raw, unprocessed documents so that we can read them unsifted and unfiltered by the mainstream media.

Shouldn't Metro Legal Have to Explain Their Decision?

So, now we know that Eric Crafton's local referendum organization received 90% of their funding from a Virginia-based pro-English group. That would seem to minimize the chances that an individual donor would have been the target of threats.  So, why would Metro Legal risk setting a precedent of political cover for future candidates, a precedent that does not ever seem to have happened in the past?

It is clear that Eric Crafton mislead the public last week when he argued that 90% of his movement's donations came from people giving less than $100 apiece. Even the best kept astroturf can never really look grassroots. I simply fail to understand why Metro Legal would give Mr. Crafton any credibility by delaying the transparent disclosure of his true corporate sources far away on the east coast. How are Virginian nativists under any greater threat than a local donor who supported English Only's opponents?

UPDATE: From the WTF?! Department via the Tennessean:
Cain told Election Administrator Ray Barrett in an email at 7:39 a.m. today that there was no evidence of "a substantial risk of bodily harm from a perceived likely threat."
These are serious allegations. I would think that Metro Legal would need to demonstrate that the perceived threat to a large anti-immigrant organization was more real than imagined before delaying transparency that could effect the vote. Or else, candidates in the future can just write letters willy-nilly to Metro Legal saying that they perceive a threat and they want their donor information kept secret until after the election and beyond.

UPDATE: Nathan Moore posted the entire text of the Cain's letter to Barrett at his blog:
I have carefully reviewed the cases related to the disclosure of the names of the contributors that were listed on the reports filed yesterday. After reviewing the concerns raised initially by Jonathan Crisp, President, Nashville English First, in light of the standards set in Kallstrom v. City of Columbus, 136 F.3d 1055, and Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, it is my opinion that you may release these reports to the public. To reach the Kallstrom standard, there must be evidence that “the release of private information places an individual at substantial risk of serious bodily harm, possibly even death, from a perceived likely threat.” Kallstrom at 136 F.3d at 1064.

The “threats” alluded to in Mr. Crisp’s letter and the attachments do not evidence a substantial risk of bodily harm from a perceived likely threat. This coupled with Mr. Crisp’s conversation with you yesterday indicating that he no longer objects to the release of the reports convince me that these records are public records that must be released in that not even Mr. Crisp, who originally raised the concern, believes there is any substantial threat.

I appreciate your patience in allowing us the opportunity to review this matter.

Sue Cain
Director of Law

Election Commission Says English First Donor Names Have Been Released

I e-mailed Election Commission Administrator Ray Barrett asking him whether there was a precedent for withholding campaign donors names. He replied that to his knowledge there was not and that the list has been released this morning. Anyone seen it yet?

UPDATE:  No word from local newspapers or their blogs yet, as of 8:35 am. No tweets.

UPDATE: Nothing from the local TV broadcast media, as of 8:40 am.

UPDATE: Via Twitter:  Tennessean's first at 8:41.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What Kind of Precedent Exists for This?

Metro Legal is not releasing English Only's donor list because former Davidson Co. GOP Chair Jon Crisp sent them a letter requesting a delay saying the donors could be subject to threats.

What campaign donors are not at risk of threats when their names are released? Why should English Only's donors receive any more government protection than the rest of us who would donate to campaigns? Has Metro ever delayed release of donor information in the past?

Downtown Noise Ordinance Passed Second Reading, up for Third

Looks like the Metro Council is taking steps to respond to some of the liberties some Downtown bars are taking with moving amplifiers outdoors. The karaoke bars are reportedly the worst offenders. The bill passed by the Council last week maintains that some of the noise complaints are coming directly from police:
The Metro Nashville Police Department has a history of calls to bars and clubs that broadcast music/sound using outdoor speakers. The noise levels from the outdoor speakers are a safety issue for Police Officers. These noise levels create hazardous conditions, as the Police have difficulty maintaining public peace and safety.

Police Officers mounted on horses, motorcycles, bicycles and walking regularly patrol the downtown Nashville area. Due to the levels of music/sound volume from outdoor speakers, the Officers are unable to hear or talk on their radios. Officers are unable to give commands to individuals or crowds as they are unable to yell loud enough to be heard over the speaker volume. Often, the noise is so loud even an Officer’s whistle cannot be heard. Crime victims, fight victims nor the general public are able to communicate with Officers, including hearing, talking or yelling due to the noise level. These occurrences are not rare.
As far as I know, endangering public safety and forcing Downtown pedestrians to listen to drunk karaoke patrons belt out "Song Sung Blue" are not the reasons Nashville is called "Music City."

Limits placed on music volume Downtown are not unreasonable even if the "best karaoke jam ever" represents a dying art left to the reels of pop culture:

So, where is that overdue report on English Only campaign contributors?

What is Eric Crafton waiting for?

"Wild West" of Coal Waste Looking to Tennessee

There's that label again: "Tennessee-style disaster." The Texas Observer comments that TVA's Kingston spill has got Texans doing some soul-searching on the status of their own sequestration systems.  They don't look much better:
An Observer review of state regulations found that coal-fired power plant operators are allowed to dump coal waste in landfills and ponds without a permit. Groundwater monitoring and liners are suggested by TCEQ, but not required. State law does require utilities operating landfills to register with the agency.

But Environmental Integrity Project analyst Jeff Stant, who calls Texas the “wild West” of coal waste, says, “They’re under no obligation to tell TCEQ that they generated [coal waste], much less where they dumped, even if they’re next to a public well-field.”

More than 90 percent of the state’s coal waste may go unregistered with TCEQ, according to a February 2008 study that Stant helped write. The study quotes a TCEQ solid waste specialist saying that most coal waste is “flying under the radar.”
It is truly pitiful that Tennessee's name is linked to disaster. Katrina happened to New Orleans, and as a result, you never hear the term "Louisiana-style hurricane." By linking Tennessee's name to the spill outsiders are dishing up our own karma; almost like we're responsible for soiling our own bed. Maybe we'll think twice next time about the demands we should be putting on polluters. Or maybe we'll just be red-state Tennessee, target of disasters of our own making.

I'll take, "Demand enforcement and what do you get?" for 200, Alex

Scene bloggers are once again bemoaning law enforcement, but only as it applies to them. On the contrary, to urban social problems not involving them, they vacantly incant "enforcement" like a spell over John the Conqueror root.

This is what happens when one relies strictly on Turd Ferguson as a primary source for dealing with urban problems.

TVA Don't Need Your Stinking Mandates

Part of the problem of being a quasi-government, quasi-private organization with U.S. Senators watching their back without much public oversight is that TVA can make up its own ad hoc rules for dealing with a coal ash disaster.

And get this: the local Roane County emergency management official--who upbraided the public and told us to believe him because he believed the TVA--is now saying that TVA actually obstructed recovery efforts because of their lack of emergency planning. One Swan Pond resident has already underscored holes in Roane County's own disaster protocols.

Moving Blithely from One Lightning-Rod Bellevue CM to the Next

Now that Eric Crafton's English Only is done, Southcomm Metro beat reporter Nate Rau is hitching his wagon to another controversial CM from Bellevue, Charlie Tygard and the latter's resurrected bid to allow bright, business-style LED signs in residential neighborhoods. The CM's buddies in the advertising industry and on the Nashville Business Alliance stand to make money in that transaction.

Ever the neutral observer, Rau once judged that poor Charlie Tygard has been "blogged to death" by opponents of residential LEDs. If he was blogged to death, why is LED reanimated once again? It is always easier to complain about social media when one does not care to examine the constitution of the LED sign task force, query the logic they use to make their recommendations, and ponder the effect of applying suburban-style frameworks to all neighborhoods, including dense urban ones. Anyhow, pandering to the development movers and shakers gathered around the Courthouse Guard probably means more fun and greater payoff for a local reporter.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

LA Times Counters City Paper

Compare and contrast.

Local reporter Nate Rau on Thursday interpreting Eric Crafton's claims to resist linking English Only and immigration:
Crafton has consistently said that English Only is simply about whether Metro business should be conducted in one language. But only last month The City Paper interviewed some of the Davidson County residents who signed his petition drive and streamlining Metro business was not the reason they supported the charter amendment proposal — instead their comments touched on the issue of illegal immigration.
The Los Angeles Times on Friday recalling an exchange with Crafton on English Only's connections to immigration, with Metro "business" almost an afterthought:
In 2007, Crafton told The Times that he was motivated by "pent-up frustrations" over illegal immigration. He also said he wanted to encourage immigrants to learn English, and save money by having government business conducted in one language.
I guess sometimes local reporters can get so close to their subjects that they lose the objective distance that non-locals still have to document the inconsistencies.

Comparing Two Nashville Councilmanic Districts on the English Only and General Election Results

Earlier today I compared the English Only vote in my precinct to the November presidential results in the same.  I also compared those results to a precinct in Joelton outside Davidson County's urban core.

I thought it would be interesting to crunch the broader numbers in District 19, my home district, and compare them to District 3, which is the home district of the Joelton precinct I looked at earlier today.  District 19 encompasses a large part of Downtown and urban neighborhoods bordering the western leg of the inner highway loop.  District 3 begins in north Nashville at Briley Parkway and fans to the northern border of Davidson County. While 19 is among the inner core districts that were instrumental in defeating English Only, 3 includes outer-ring suburban neighborhoods where support for English Only was more mixed.

The first thing that stands out to me about the vote results is that District 3 does a better job at GOTV than District 19 does.  In spite of stereotypes of machine-like qualities to urban voter turn-out, only 11% of 19's registered voters turned out last week, compared to 17% in District 3. According to reports, 19 was one of the districts Howard Gentry robocalled late, and it is not clear that he had much of an effect.

But the real shocker to me is that the same can be said of turnout for the November presidential election. District 3 turned out an impressive 82% of their registered voters (7825 of 9555) compared to a rather anemic 61% turnout for District 19 (6044 of 9992). The November numbers are shocking to me given the historic and popular qualities of the Obama candidacy and the expectations of urban neighborhoods.

And yet, it is not as if District 3 voters were mobilized against Obama. On November 4, the number of District 3 voters choosing Obama was exactly 4 voters less than the total November turnout in District 19.  77% of District 3 voters cast their votes for Obama. 87% of District 19 voters cast their ballots for Obama (though a higher percentage, fewer numbers voted for Obama in District 19).  Clearly, the 2008 campaign motivated voters in both districts to turn out to vote for Obama, but in District 3 more registered voters were motivated to vote period (and 800 more voted for Obama than in District 19). I cannot make sense of the disparity.

While there is some continuity in District 19 between its choice for Obama and its rejection of English Only, District 3's November and January results are disparate. I maintain that a progressive district will not only vote for the first African American president, but will also tend to oppose English Only. Moreover, I tend to assume that levels of progressiveness rise with an increase in density and urbanization. So, it makes sense to me to see that Obama won by 87% of the vote and that English Only lost by 79% of the vote in District 19.

District 3 is another matter. Obama won by 77% of the vote in November.  However, in January, English Only won 54% of the vote. Perhaps the results correlate with the idea that less urban parts of Davidson County are only sometimes as progressive as and generally less progressive than the urban core. Another explanation could be that the progressives in District 3 simply were not as motivated to go to the polls by English Only as they were by Barack Obama.

There are indications within the District 3 results of correlation between Obama voters and English Only opponents in the two Brick Church Pike precincts. Those were the only District 3 precincts to vote against English Only (all of District 19's precincts voted against English Only). They were also the precincts that broke most heavily for Obama in November (only one other District 3 precinct voted for Obama, but it also voted for English Only).

Explaining the differences require more follow-up beyond poll interpretation. I would also like to see how perceived ethnic competitiveness in either district might have effected the results.

Eric Crafton's Own District Voted Against English Only

According to the Tennessean, Bellevue voters, who elected Eric Crafton to the Metro Council, rejected English Only by a margin of 10%. Roughly a quarter of registered voters in Crafton's district cast a vote in the special election.

The Tennessean also supplies a color-coded map to support the argument that Davidson County's urban inner-core tipped the scales against English Only.

Comparing and Contrasting English Only Voting to General Election Voting in My Precinct

According to Election Commission stats, turn-out in the 15th Avenue Baptist Church precinct to vote last November was up around 70%.  This week's English Only referendum only motivated a little under 13% of the voters here to turn out.  Assuming that voting for Barack Obama and voting against English Only are progressive ballots:  Obama garnered over 90% of the presidential votes cast (1,525) in my precinct; 77% of the votes cast (239) last week went against English Only.

It is no surprise to me that only a fraction of the registered voters who turned out to vote in November came back out in January to vote in the special election.  That fact places some limits on whether we can judge that my precinct is as progressive as it is Democratic and Obama-leaning. It is clear that an overwhelming majority of those voting here broke against English Only at a rate somewhat less than they broke for Obama in November.  This precinct is predominantly African American.  There is no indication from the numbers we have that competition or tension between African Americans and the Hispanic community had any effect on the vote against English Only.

Given both sets of results, I would call my precinct strongly progressive (its Democratic leanings were self-evident in November).

UPDATE:  Compare my precinct to one in far northwest, less urban Davidson County, Joelton Elementary. In the Joelton precinct, 70% of the registered voters voted in November. That's well short of the 90% who showed up in my urban precinct, but it is still an impressive number. Almost 27% showed up to vote in the special election, effectively doubling the rate at 15th Avenue Baptist Church here in the North End. However, more voters turned out here (309) than in Joelton (195). In November, only 40% of those voting at Joelton Elementary cast their votes for Obama. Last week only 31% cast their votes against English Only. Hence, Joelton is more conservative with regard to voting for Obama and opposing English Only.  However, Joelton Elementary voters did not favor Obama's Republican opponent (John McCain won 58% of the vote) at the same rate that they favored English Only (almost 70%). The Joelton precinct is more Republican than my precinct is, but it looks like on English Only it trends more highly conservative than it does Republican (adding the caveat that lower January turnout may also make a difference to this interpretation).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Does a Nearly 10,000 Vote Rejection Amount to "Narrow"?

The special interest nativists who funded Eric Crafton from their offices in Virginia try to contain the damage Nashville dealt to their cause:
"Yesterday's vote in Nashville narrowly rejecting an initiative that would have made English the official language of city government was a sad day for the city's unity," said ProEnglish Executive Director K.C. McAlpin.

"Nashville's citizens will now be forced to live with the costs as well as the divisiveness of multilingual government promoted by far-left organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union," McAlpin said. "And when it's time to pick up the tab, they'll discover that the well-heeled business interests that contributed so generously to defeating official English, are nowhere to be found," he added.

McAlpin praised the local citizen's group called Nashville English First led by Nashville Metro Councilman Eric Crafton who sponsored the initiative and succeeded in forcing a special election on the issue despite the obstructionism of Nashville Mayor Karl Dean who did everything he could to stop it from coming to a vote.

McAlpin attributed the defeat to the lower voter turnout characteristic of special elections and one-sided coverage of the issue by Nashville's major daily newspaper, the Tennessean.

A Unique Report on English Only

Humor from a social networking website:
[Nashville's] influx of residents has been fueled primarily by Asian, African and Hispanic newcomers, as well as a large Kurdish community. "lt would have been a lot easier for the city to absorb small Kurds," said Councilman Eric Crafton, sponsor of the measure. "Just take a look at the two kinds of cottage cheese in the dairy case at the grocery store and you'll see the difference."

The ordinance would have granted powers of arrest and detention to English teachers, a group that has been at a disadvantage in its struggle to impose rules of grammar and syntax on Nashville's adolescents. "So many of our students say things like 'Gene Ray don't like Shania Twain'," notes Abigail Hartnett, an instructor at Dolly Parton Consolidated Regional High School. "If you tell them to say 'Gene Ray doesn't like Shania Twain,' they come back at you with 'That's what I jest said' or 'Don't make me no nevermind'."

Friday, January 23, 2009

TVA Caught Softpedaling their Spin about Coal Ash Spill

Someone at TVA accidently sent the AP an early draft of a Dec. 23 memo showing downplayed edits ("sudden, accidental release") of initial descriptions ("catastrophic") that made the disaster look like, well, the disaster that it actually is.

Another black eye in TVA's attempt to win the public relations battle. Word to the wise:  whenever TVA describes a "threat to fish" they originally meant "risk to public health." So, what do they ever mean when the final draft says "risk to public health"? "Epic threat to all life as we know it"?

Less than 24 hours after polls close and that old Eric Crafton is back to his routine pot shots at opponents

Via Enclave commenter jewel, it looks like Eric Crafton's hang-dog mug is now twisted into bitter bile at the voters whom he called "We the People" before yesterday's special election:
It’s a clear majority of the people that want to move in a multi-lingual direction and may be that’s what we need to do. We can be the San Francisco of the South or the New York of the South.
That is the same old angry Eric Crafton I've seen over and over again in Metro Council proceedings. The loss looks stuck in his craw and he doesn't seem interested in contrition or turning this situation into a constructive one and helping us find away to pay off this election while Nashville meets its other financial obligations.

Gentry Targets Metro Council District 19 for Yesterday's GOTV

According to the Tennessean, former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry returned from Barack Obama's Inauguration this week inspired to beat English Only. And so it goes:
He picked five Nashville districts that had supported him in his unsuccessful race for mayor two years ago — 1, 2, 3, 19 and 21. He noticed those same districts were mapped in a Tennessean analysis on early voting, and participation from them wasn't strong ....

And by 3 p.m. Wednesday, a call with a recording of that script began going out to 5,000 households.

"I am a product of segregated schools, segregated bathrooms," Gentry said. "I became the vice mayor of Nashville.

"Through it all, Nashville has changed. It has gone from a very, very unwelcoming city to a welcoming city."
As one of the few District 19 residents who did early vote, I appreciate Gentry's efforts to get other neighbors motivated. But the cynic in me also wonders whether the fits that CM Eric Crafton gave Gentry when he was Vice Mayor did not serve as proper motivation for some payback.

UPDATE: Gentry is catching a little criticism from a fellow English Only opponent over at the Post blog for coming "late" to the election. That kind of criticism seems uncalled for to me, and not because I haven't been critical of Howard Gentry in the past (I have). I've consistently argued for the last few months that English Only will win or lose on the votes of the African American community. Whether I was correct or incorrect about that yet to be seen. But if a prominent African American leader, who was also competitive against Karl Dean in the last Mayor's race, can maximize GOTV in predominantly African American precincts, why minimize the influence of his late campaign robocalls to targeted precincts? I was among the first to actively oppose English Only and I am sincerely grateful to Mr. Gentry for stepping in when he did, especially if the election day returns show that the targeted districts had good turnouts. We should not write this win as exclusively Karl Dean's as the criticism seems to suggest. Keep your composure, Deaniacs.

English Only: This Thing Ain't Over

Despite claims from all sides that Nashville needs to move on from English Only, we are not done at least until Eric Crafton reports his financial contributors. That is as much a part of yesterday's elections as going to the polls itself. Without public accountability the results are incomplete.

Don't forget folks: the bill is still going to come due for the election, and if Eric Crafton is serious about wanting to do things to help us now, he can start proposing some ideas for paying the bills. Eric Crafton did not just materialize from nowhere.  He is not going to disappear just because the bulk of Nashvillians no longer pay attention to his troubling behavior.

Global Media Coverage of English Only's Defeat

New York Times -- "Nashville ... rejected a proposal ... to prevent government workers from communicating in other languages"

BBC -- "The "English First" measure was defeated by 41,752 votes to 32,144."

MSNBC -- "The vote means the city of nearly 600,000 people refused to become the largest in the U.S. to prohibit translating written and spoken communications for residents who speak no or little English."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Deep Thought

56.5% of Nashvillians voted against English Only. 43.5% of Nashvillians voted for English Only. English unifies Nashvillians?

English Only Did Not Play in Music City

With over 90% of the precincts reporting, Eric Crafton and English Only lose big.  39,000 Nashvillians are rejecting English only with only a handful of precincts remaining to count.

UPDATE: I expect nothing but contrition in any response from Eric Crafton, whose mantra while pursuing this expensive special election was "'We the People' have a right to vote on this matter." Well, he should have been more careful about what he asked for.  He has now caused this city to spend $500,000 to get us right back to the place we were before he started blowing hard. For shame!

UPDATE:  The unofficial final results with 100% of the precincts in:
For English Only -- 32,144 (44%)
Against English Only -- 41,752 (56%)

UPDATE: Here's what counts as concession at Crafton's "Nashville English First":
Everyone at Nashville English First would like to thank the 32,144 Nashvillians that supported the cause to unify Nashville through language. We worked hard to promote your voice and in the end we were successful by allowing the citizens of Nashville to speak their opinion at the ballot box.
Even when he loses, Crafton still claims to win.

English Only and Eric Crafton Look Beat

With 148 of 173 Nashville precincts reporting English Only is trailing by 8,500 votes! Simply and shockingly awesome if it holds, which it looks like it will.

Election Night Returns Updates

7:15 -- back from Salemtown assc. meeting w/police on recent rash of burglaries here.  Turned on Metro 3 to find out that English Only is losing early by 5,000 votes.

7:30 -- you can also follow at the Election Commission website.

8:00 -- 13 precincts reporting; English Only losing by 3,500 votes; 2nd amendment losing by 5,000.

8:05 -- no surprises: English Only is losing in early voting ballots 2-to-1 and slightly winning in election day ballots.

8:06 -- 27 precincts in; English only losing by just under 4,000 votes.

8:07 -- 2nd amendment leading in election day ballots by 500; way ahead in early votes.

8:12 -- only a little over 1/8 of the total precincts reporting so far.

8:16 -- with 61 precincts in English Only still losing by 4,000 votes

8:18 -- 61 precincts is over 1/3 of the total 173

8:20 -- Election Day votes against English Only pulled ahead of for English Only by 200; slight surprise?

8:22 -- Early voting against English Only still doubling for English Only

8:24 -- against amendment 2 trouncing for amendment 2; is that one over?

8:29 -- almost half of the precincts have reported and English Only is losing by around 4,500 votes!

8:31 -- 85 of 173 precincts reporting (unofficially)

8:33 -- against amendment 2 has opened up a 9,000 vote lead

8:35 -- among those who voted today on English Only:  for--11,126; against--11,941.  I never expected that close of an election day race.

8:41 -- with 109 of 173 precincts reporting, against English Only has opened up a 5,000 vote lead!

8:44 -- early votes against English Only have held the same lead all night.  Election day votes against are nearly 2,000 votes ahead now.  Way to go late voting EO opponents!

8:50 -- waiting on the magic number 130 of 173 precincts to report to admit I was wrong for ever doubting Nashville's will to defeat English Only

8:55 -- It looks like it's over!  English Only is losing by 8,500 votes with 148 precincts reporting!

CNN: Mexican-America Legal Defense Fund Monitoring English Only Referendum Results

If English Only wins today, you better get your wallets out and prepare to fork over local tax dollars to deal with the legal fallout:
Elise Shore, southeast director of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said her regional office in Atlanta, Georgia, was monitoring the Nashville balloting.

"We just elected our first black president. There are the forces of globalization and conducting business around the world ... in the face of this, we see these measures?" Shore asked.

The proposal "sends a strong message ... this is a negative message. In fact, it invites discrimination," she said.

How Mainstream Media Memes Become Fact, Part 2

Since the beginning of Mayor Karl Dean's stint in the Courthouse, a meme has repeatedly emerged in the Nashville City Paper at the fringes of reports on Metro politics and at the heart of several anonymous editorial opinions: Dean Administration = good; Bill Purcell's former administration = bad. Whether that meme is reported from the mouths of interview subjects or comes from the disembodied editorial voice, it has been a constant, and an unchallenged constant.

Nate Rau's report on Eric Crafton this morning replays that meme once again without any challenge from Rau:
Crafton blames the opposition for drawing so much attention nationally to the issue. He insisted that if Purcell had not vetoed his original Council bill, then no one outside of Nashville would have noticed.
Crafton has made no bones about his odd animus for Purcell and his strange preference for Karl Dean, even though Dean has done much more than Purcell to oppose Crafton and publicize that opposition in the media.

It was the Dean Administration's legal department that threw up every road block it could to stave off an election. It has been Dean starring in opposition TV commercials and in a mayoral YouTube series speaking out against English Only. It was Dean who appeared with the Governor in a highly publicized pilgrimage to the polls recently to vote against English Only. Dean has been a much more newsworthy English Only opponent than Purcell, who would at times leave us guessing about whether he would veto Crafton's council English Only bill. Moreover, it wasn't Bill Purcell who went on national Fox News in February 2007 after the veto. It was Eric Crafton who brought national attention to his pet cause. For Crafton to argue that Purcell brought national attention is unadulterated fabrication at best, a damned lie at worst.

Reporter Rau should have responded to Crafton dragging Purcell once more through the muck disingenuously by pointing out all of these facts. But so doing would fail the dominant mayoral meme at the City Paper.

Tennessee's Corker Emerges Near the Center of Republican Hypocrisy on Confirmations

TPM with the catch:
By holding up [Obama's nominees for EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality], Senate Republicans are doing more than just signaling their discontent that they won't get to question and vote on Browner -- although Sen. Bob Corker [R-TN] suggests to the Times that [prospective Obama senior policy advisor Carol] Browner be called in for a "quasi-confirmation" hearing. They're previewing their strategy to knock down the climate regulation bill that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), environment committee chairman, will release later this year.

Here's how it might look: After Boxer's climate bill emerges, Republicans would immediately protest the involvement of Browner, a White House adviser who was never fully vetted by the Senate. (Never mind that installing senior aides in the White House to avoid confirmation was a hallmark of George Bush.)
Not only is Bob Corker calling for hearings that he never would have demanded for the Bush Administration, but he is obviously attempting to throw a monkey wrench in the Obama Administration's quick response to our energy and environment problems, including any regulatory reform that might prevent future catastrophic ash spills like the one here in his own home state.

Bright ideas drop from heaven one tweet at a time

Thus, Jim Reams did tweet on this here election day:
If amendment 2 in Nashville's election passes, I'm leading the petition drive for a special election to throw Crafton out on his ass.

UPDATE: Not to be outdone by himself, Jim Reams tweets:
What I just learned: The town of Suphan Buri is sometimes called the Thai Nashville. (I wonder if they have a "Thai First" law.)

A Delaware Liberal Weighs in against Nashville's English Only

A dispatch from "The First State":
while the United Sates is fighting two wars, the economy is going to hell in a hand basket, some brainiac thought that this would be a good idea. And that brainiac would be Council Member Eric Crafton.

How is it possible post-TVA disaster?

How can any major newspaper seriously editorialize on the virtues of "clean coal" and refer only to the air pollution solutions while saying nothing on fly ash containment challenges after the December 22 Kingston Steam Plant spill? How is that possible without the coal industry having some kind of sway over the editorial voice?

How Mainstream Media Memes Become Fact

One week ago, City Paper reporter Nate Rau effectively shielded Eric Crafton from criticism by referring to him as "accessible" to an acquiescing local media. This morning Rau once again seems to be trying to keep Crafton away from any criticism of the local movement he has created:
Crafton has consistently said that English Only is simply about whether Metro business should be conducted in one language. But only last month The City Paper interviewed some of the Davidson County residents who signed his petition drive and streamlining Metro business was not the reason they supported the charter amendment proposal — instead their comments touched on the issue of illegal immigration.
Crafton has not been consistent on this issue. Since he birthed English Only in 2006, he has both tried to tie English Only to and tried to separate English Only from immigration issues. His co-leader in this effort, Jon Crisp, has consistently tied English Only to immigration in the public comments from him that I've read. If there is an anti-immigrant rabble around English Only, Eric Crafton has been at least as much a part of it as he has of any nobler purpose that Nate Rau attributes to him. Why does the City Paper continue to be so phobic and protective in writing on Eric Crafton?

Preds fans: Bail you out once, shame on me. Can't get bailed out again

Either Nashville's hockey fan base has failed us again or Nashville simply lacks the fan base to support an NHL hockey team. Either way, it is fanantical failure.

At mid-point, the Nashville Predators are on track to fail to put the minimum 14,000 fans per match in the seats for the third season running. Meeting that minimum qualifies the team for the NHL's revenue sharing plan:  that's free money spread around to small market teams like Nashville from the big market teams. That windfall is so big that Predators owners tell the Tennessean that they are going to buy thousands of their franchise's own tickets to get themselves up to the 14,000 average.

The Metro Sports Authority and their yell leader, mostly-Bellevue-and-only-sometimes-at-Large council member Charlie Tygard, try to reassure the Tennessean that everything is fine and that this will not cost Nashville any money. But these are the kinds of financial burdens that motivate professional sports teams to renegotiate contracts with cities. It may not cost Nashville anything right now, but this will likely come back to haunt us when the Predators have absorbed enough blows and demand the bargaining table to negotiate away their rising costs, as they did with Karl Dean not too long ago.

The more the Predators buy up their own tickets, the less disposable income they have in the future and chances increase that they will trap us into new leases just as ill-advised as the old ones (any lease that leaves Nashville with the rationale, "What else can we do?" is stupid). And, once again, the blame goes to their fan base for failing to buy the tickets.

Dallas Police Figure Guarding Bush Home Will Cost City $1 Million Per Year

A nation's old burden has become a city's new one.

Looks like our ex-President is returning to his business habit of relying on other people's money.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Miami's Message to Nashville: Learn from Us, Defeat English Only Tomorrow

Today's Miami Herald uses its firsthand experience with English Only to warn Nashville away from the rocks its ship splintered on in the 1980s:
we've been there and done that -- and we didn't like it. Dade County, as it was then known, enacted an English-only ordinance in 1980. It quickly became a source of endless legal headaches, heated community debate, political embarrassment and bureaucratic wrangling. Finally, it was repealed in 1993, to near-universal relief.
Let's hope a majority of those expected 50,000 voters who show up tomorrow heed Miami's warning and save us the trouble of paying for Eric Crafton's obsession for the next decade in Nashville.

AP Interviews Metro Health, Kurdish Immigrant on English Only

In an Associated Press report just out, a Metro Health Department official wonders whether their inspectors will be forced to tell non-English-speaking property owners that their grass is too high in English only.

And a poignant interview with a Kurdish Nashvillian demonstrates just how unhelpful English Only would be for non-English speakers:
Remziya Suleyman, 24, a Kurdish refugee from Zaxo, Iraq, moved to Nashville in 1992 with her family. It took her three years to learn English in Nashville public schools.

Her 43-year-old mother, however, still struggles.

"She doesn't know how to read and write English even after being here for 17 years because, like many other refugees, she had to work three jobs at one point for the family to survive," Suleyman said.
Eric Crafton has never shown that immigrants are not learning English fast enough to warrant a law that would outlaw any Metro attempt to help them out from time to time. The comments of Ms. Suleyman indicates that the net effect of a New English Only law would be indifferent and inhumane.

Not Even a Slap on the Wrist for Crafton's Lack of Transparency

Does Eric Crafton really believe that if there is any anger and backlash at out-of-state groups giving him $70,000 to leverage tomorrow's election it will really dissipate if English Only wins? Or does he really just take us for idiots who would accept every excuse he hands us without question?

In my opinion, Eric Crafton could not care less about backlash after the election as long as it doesn't happen before polls close tomorrow and deny him a personal victory.

Fisk Radio Host Expresses Opposition to English Only on Air

At the end of an interview with Eric Crafton this afternoon WFSK radio host Sharon Kay (of "What's the 411?") told him that she voted against English Only and said, "Can't dress up that duck." She also commented on air that she intended to respond to Crafton's culture war compatriot, Jon Crisp, who she said had complained that the media has not covered English Only.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

BREAKING: Jameson Asks Beer Industry, "Which Laws Do You Think Are Not Being Enforced?"

CM Mike Jameson deferred Gilmore's beer-blight bill tonight because she is at the Obama Inauguration. However, he added that in light of a letter from sellers claiming that enforcement was the main problem he was also deferring the bill to get them to answer the very questions that I have been asking of the beer industry supporters in the local media here (without getting any answers): what specific laws are not being enforced? How would the beer industry have us better enforce the laws in light of the fact that the top 10 public intoxication offenders have been arrested over 1,350 times?

CM Jameson was kind enough to send me the list of offenders:

It is patently ridiculous for the beer industry, absentee slum lords, and industry supporters in the media to claim that public intoxication has nothing to do with any other illegal activity when those with numerous drunk collars have long rap sheets.

Jameson's tone seemed forceful tonight, given his usually even-keeled demeanor, and he gave no indication in his comments that the bill would be "tweaked" in a way that one local media beer industry supporter found hopeful. He still wants to cut the problem off at the source. It looked like to me he was laying down the gauntlet and challenging opponents to prove that enforcement is indeed lacking.

So, the question still stands: if the problem with deteriorating conditions and crime around single-serve sellers is enforcement, then what is not being enforced and how should that enforcement happen?

Metro Council Approves Alcohol Sales at Farmers Market

Pending permits from state alchohol commission and Metro beer board.

Are microbreweries sources of blight and crime in neighborhoods?

Much is being made of the exception that CM Erica Gilmore is making for microbreweries like Yazoo Brewery over at Marathon Village. However, it is not fair to judge beer sellers on the flat but on what they bring to a neighborhood. Compare Yazoo's rehabilitative effects on the auto works building (and hence, the neighborhood) to an old blighted market that sat on a corner not far from Yazoo called "Nile Market." And contrast how benign Yazoo was compared to Nile Market.  There wasn't a time I passed Nile Market that I didn't sense that there was something sketchy going on with the thugs gathered outside. I cannot say that I feel the same when passing Yazoo. Yet, opponents of regulating beer sales try to convince us that the sale of big package malt liquor to sidewalk players and wise guys is exactly the same as the sale of a bottle of Dos Perros in the tap room or the purchase of a growler to take home.

The Nile Market was closed and torn down not too long ago, and almost immediately it seemed like Salemtown's Volcano Discount Tobacco market at 7th and Garfield got an influx of rough-looking men whom I did not recognize as Salemtown regulars. It seemed like I was seeing an increase in drug-deal-looking transactions at 7th and Garfield.  I have to wonder whether ending the sale of single-serve beers in one location pushes the suspicious and the criminal element to the next single-serve location.

Frankly, the sour neighborhood attitudes toward single-serve beer vendors has been earned. They have done little to support the interests of neighbors and make their neighborhoods better places. If the owners of the market at 7th & Garfield had shown a willingness to work with us to make Salemtown a safer place to live rather than being irresponsible and apathetic to blight they cause in our community, then there might have been more hesitation about supporting Erica Gilmore's proposed ban.

Urban Residents Association Endorses Gilmore's Beer-Blight Bill

Wage tweets his displeasure at the URA's endorsement. I don't live in the central core, so I can't address why the bill would be "pointless and harmful" from a Downtown (proper) perspective, but from a Salemtown perspective (we fall inside the "Downtown loop"), the bill represents one more attempt to control blight and crime that rises and falls with single serve beer sales at the corner of 7th Avenue North and Garfield Street. The two occasions that the beer vendor was closed for long periods of time--once after the manager was shot during a robbery attempt and once after the market was cited for allowing consumption on premises--suspicious behavior around the market disappeared.  There is no stronger case against single-serve than that. Given that the police have been working to prevent crime at the market for as long as I've been here, and we are not getting any good alternatives from anyone else, banning seems to be the best option available to high density residential areas.  These are reasons why the Salemtown association voted unanimously to support Gilmore's ban, which comes before Metro Council tonight.

Two Noteworthy Netroots Points from the New White House Website

The Obama Administration's website has now replaced that of the Bush Administration at, and there are two noteworthy points on the White House blog. One concerns transparency:
President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.
The second is a deliberate reference to Obama's community organizing background to draw out the idea of participation:
President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.
I hope that he will submit any "signing statement" drafts (George W. Bush misused and abused signing statements) to the same participatory feedback process.

Gilmore's Beer-Blight Bill Up Again Tonight

Nashville's holy print media trinity (Tennessean, City Paper, and Scene) have all editorialized against Erica Gilmore's legislative attempt to curb blight and crime in her Downtown precincts by prohibiting the sale of single serve beers. Her bill, which the Council will discuss tonight, seems to be a modest attempt to respond to deteriorating conditions in urban neighborhoods even as it doesn't appeal to the editorial voices who have their heads in the clouds and the ears tuned to the grocery and convenience store lobby (a.k.a., the real exploiters in these conditions).

This is simply a matter of regulating commerce in residential neighborhoods. CM Gilmore gets to the heart of the matter in her defense of the bill by pointing to cheap accessibility and the fact that police spend their time and resources on the top ten offenders of public intoxication. Cutting the problem off at the source in residential neighborhoods is reasonable for the health and safety of those who have to live around the stores, innocent pedestrians, and school children who onload and offload buses nearby.

If the media is serious in their nebulous arguments for greater law enforcement, then let them get out and make some citizens arrests themselves. Of course, there is always the other tried and true option of raising single serve sin taxes so high that consumption in these neighborhoods is driven down with rising costs. That would really get the grocery lobby and absentee slum lords screaming. I prefer another less regressive way (the same argument about after hours clubs applies to single serve commerce): let's get dangerous commercial blight out of residential neighborhoods and into specific zones and, since journalists are rushing to be the champions of the lords of blight and their patrons, let's designate the zoning proximate to any newspaper headquarters.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Financial Hit Nashville Could Take for English Only is in the Hundreds of Millions

Nathan Moore does the math:
  1. Nashville will already owe $500,000 for Thursday's special election.
  2. At best English only will save us less than $500 per year; at that rate, it would take Nashville 1,000 years to pay back the $500,000 on the savings alone.
  3. English Only could cost Nashville $280 million per year in federal funding connected to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The real numbers reveal English Only to be the same empty, symbolic crap that Eric Crafton has always pulled as a council member. I have seen him openly challenge the receipt of federal funds for STDs and AIDs community education in order to try to attach abstinence declarations to what amount to federal dollars that support Metro services with no encumbrance whatsoever. His protests amounted to nothing since Metro had a simple choice: either accept the funds or send them back. Crafton's grandstanding was an utter waste of time.

That grandstanding makes Crafton look as if he cannot stand good things that come to or happen in Nashville. Federal money to provide assistance to help Metro employees do their jobs effectively? Forget about it. A Metro employee helping a first generation immigrant in distress when she has the skills to do it? Not under Crafton's watch. Exhausting Metro resources for his own purposes? His moral imperative, regardless of cost to this city.

World Court Unanimously Rules Texas Execution Violation of International Law

ICJ rules that by not allowing diplomatic review of a Mexican national's pending execution by Mexican officials, the U.S. violated international law. The ICJ's rulings are not binding on the U.S. unless and until Congress passes pending legislation to make them so. The ICJ includes one U.S. judge.

At The Same Time Bling of America Was Asking for More Fed Bailout, It Was Approving Payment of Dividends to "Preferred" Stockholders

This news just makes my taxpayer's blood boil. How in the hell can already bailed out Bank of America afford to pay "preferred" dividends (which get paid before stockholders get their dividends) while they are begging for billions more in bailout capital to subsidize their foolish purchase of Merrill Lynch?

Matthew Goldstein prescribes the proper antidote:
why shouldn’t [BofA] be forced to cut its outlays to the bone first? After all, analysts are saying even banks with relatively healthy balance sheets, like Wells Fargo, may have to trim their dividends. As of right now, BofA, even after cutting its dividend in half in October, still boasts a hefty payout of 32 cents a share. Even at that reduced amount, the dividend is equal to the sum the bank was paying shareholders in 2003. When the bank slashed the dividend in October, it said the move would save it about $1.4 billion a quarter in badly-needed capital. By that math, eliminating the dividend altogether would say about $2.8 billion in capital a quarter. The bank declined to comment.
Of course, they declined to comment because right now the federal government is funneling them money with no strings attached. Why draw more critical attention to their gold digging?

Be a long dark night before this thing is done

John Fogerty's driving protest songs against the fortunate-son Bush Administration are among some of the more memorable for me. The long dark night engendered by war, failed federal oversight, economic collapse, and social injustice of the last 8 years may not soon be over, but Bush's bad moon is setting tomorrow.

I would take the word of a Nobel Prize winning professor over that of a local journalist

PiTW's Matt Sullivan says that Herbert Hoover shouldn't be on a worst Presidents list because the Great Depression merely happened to him. Perhaps it is too much to ask to some people to remember that when it came to those left behind in economic downturn Hoover placed his faith first in relatively weak voluntary organizations rather than comprehensive government programs. Shanty towns called "Hoovervilles" didn't just emerge because of misdirected anger; they rose up because Hoover's effective responses to the Depression were late in coming and people suffered as a result of his lack of swiftness.

Professor Paul Krugman suggests that acting Hooveristically means "slashing spending in a time of recession, often at the expense both of their most vulnerable constituents and of the nation’s economic future." Each of these Hooverisms is consistent with George W. Bush's administration, which is widely acknowledged as one of the worst in history.  More Krugman on Hooverism in the GOP in the second half of this video:

Hoover may have been a victim of the Depression, but his response to it came too little, too late. He deserves to be listed among the worst Presidents ever. He earned the title.

English Only Will Be Nashville's New Whites Only

If Nashville voters approve English Only on Thursday it may prompt a return to a shameful past where society reserved greater privileges for one cultural group to the exclusion and neglect of others.

(Photo credit: Library of Congress).

Will We Ever Even See a Liberal-in-Chief?

Via the Post blog, some disheartening signals on the incoming administration.  Blue Dogs, like Tennessee's Jim Cooper, claim that Barack Obama is one of them.

While the media and Dems in power seem to be expecting Obama to be a symbolic Kennedy, many of us are looking for a solid FDR.

Because Friday Night's the Time When Journalists Stop Writing and Get Their Drink On at the Local Watering Hole

Pith in the Wind "liveblogs" last Friday's English Only debate today.

Jeremiad Day

While many see today's MLK Day celebration as complement to this week's Inauguration of Barack Obama, I tend to see it more of a contrast. Hardly a perfectionist, I shy away from the euphoria of the Inauguration and the chants that "we are one. " This week's "other" celebration, MLK Day, gives me pause to consider the ways we are still not and may in fact never be one, conditions as they are in America.

From beginning to end, this week is about civil religion, so I'll put it in religious terms: Dr. King was (and still is) a prophet rejected in his own land. He may have his day in the national pantheon of holidays, but his ideas are selectively retrieved. I do not have any objections to President-Elect Barack Obama trying to bring this land back together, but I do not believe that we should ignore prophetic dissent for the sake of priestly unity (keep in mind that the word "religion" comes from a Latin root, which means "to bind together," or "to tie fast").

Cornel West underscored King's prophetic resources among several others:
The last major resource for King's thought was American civil religion--that complex of religious ideals of deliverance and salvation and political ideals of freedom, democracy, and equality that constitute the evolving collective self-definition of America .... [King's interpretation of civil religion] lead him creatively to extend the tradition of American jeremiads--a tradition of public exhortation that joins social criticisms of America to moral renewal and calls America back to its founding ideals .... King did not support and affirm the bland American dream of comfortable living and material prosperity. Rather, he put forward his down dream--grounded and refined in the black church experience, supplemented by liberal Christianity, and implemented by Gandhian methods of nonviolent resistance--rooted in the American ideals of democracy, freedom, and equality.
Today to me is much more like King's jeremiad and less like the benediction-like quality of the Inauguration of Barack Obama. It is separate and apart, and it is not easily bound together. Today is about our failings and our society's sin that not even the most arrogant rationalist can deny. It should be more of a national Lent, a day of sack cloth and ashes, when we reflect on and consider the ways that only some of us have reached the mountaintop but left others behind.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Publishing Online Allows Them to Run a Correction to Cover Their Laziness

Today's peek into the old newsreader tells me that the mighty New York Times ran an online correction to their 8-day-old as-factual transmission of Eric Crafton's fictional claim about the California legislature. I do not know whether the correction was also made in hard copy, but does it really matter after a week? The damage is already done.

What's the big deal about transmitting Eric Crafton's fairy tales without critical dissection and verification? The Nashville City Paper does it all the time.

Deep Thought

A leader of the English Only opposition was nearly run over by an overzealous English Only supporter in her car on Monday, but he didn't let that stop him from disclosing the sources of the opposition's campaign financing on Thursday.

So, where does Eric Crafton get off using the excuse that he was threatened with violence by an opponent to hide English Only's sources of campaign finances?

Blow Away, Blow Away, Blow Away

Wind blew in, cloud was dispersed
Rainbows appearing, the pressures were burst
Breezes a-singing, now feeling good
The moment had passed
Like I knew that it should.
- - George Harrison, Blow Away

El Protector

Eric Crafton's latest excuse for not abiding the law and being transparent about which extremist groups are funding his English Only referendum: contributors will be the targets of death threats.

If every political campaign chose not to disclose its campaign financing sources due to death threats, would there ever be any disclosure at all?

Crafton is once again granting himself special exceptions and acting like he is a cut above any other leader.

Every exception he gives himself eliminates any future claim he has on a moral high ground. He has already sacrificed any claim to be a fiscal conservative by seeking a high dollar special election; now he is jettisoning his opportunity to champion government transparency.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Media BS Alert

The NY Times has already conflated liberals and ideologues, so wasn't it high time for WaPo to reduce liberalism to orthodoxy? Once again, instead of reporting the news, the media gatekeepers are framing ideas against progressives and triangulating between Barack Obama and progressive ideas. Which part of "orthodoxy is not the exclusive domain of liberals" do they not understand? Keep in mind that it is the same media that rarely batted an eye at the strange conservative fruit of unquestioned loyalty in George W. Bush's White House cult. We should not ignore the bias in the media against the left when it raises its ugly head. We should also keep in mind that editorial voices have their own unquestioned orthodoxies that determine how they see things and whether they tie themselves in knots at the specter of liberal federal policies, even as a decade of conservative federal policies has shaken us to the foundations.

Your Last Chance

Today is the last day of early voting. Go to the Howard School Building Downtown this morning if you intend to early vote and have yet to do so.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fisk Overlay Proposal Queued up for Planning's Public Hearing on Election Day

Be advised that Fisk University's institutional overlay, which was previously deferred and recommended by the Planning staff, is slated for Planning Commission consideration on Special Election Day, Thursday, January 22 (4:00):
Fisk University Institutional Overlay
Map: 092-03, 092-04 Parcels: Various
Map: 081-15 Parcels: Various
North Nashville Community Plan
Council District 19 – Erica S. Gilmore
Staff Reviewer: Bob Leeman
A request to apply an Institutional Overlay District to Fisk University located east of Dr. D.B. Todd Boulevard, along 16th Avenue North, 17th Avenue North, Herman Street, Jackson Street, Jefferson Street, Meharry Boulevard, and Phillips Street (44.23 acres), zoned RM20, to identify the proposed campus boundaries and future university planning efforts, requested by Councilmember Megan Barry for various owners, and Tuck-Hinton Architects, applicant, for Fisk University, owner.
Given that this public hearing concerns predominantly African American neighborhoods and it is being held at the end of the work day, it could effect African American turn-out at in the north-by-northwest voting precincts around Fisk.