Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Signature Tower Rendering With Ballpark

Check out this picture of Downtown with future infill posted over at urbanplanet.org. It includes mammoth Signature Tower and the new ballpark, which if built in that direction would be brutal for the fielders, who would have to pick flies out of direct sunlight.

Dear William Williams & Nashville City Paper:

Here is the text of an e-mail I sent to editor William Williams yesterday, who after so many mea culpas and offers to make amends last week seems to have failed to correct last Wednesday's City Paper front-pager on Salemtown:
It truly saddens me to see that after almost a week, the City Paper has made no effort whatsoever to correct or to retract its mistakes about the Salemtown neighborhood on Wednesday of last week. I got the impression from our phone conversation that you were going to make sincere efforts to be accountable in print, but since almost a week has gone by after your apology and there is no evidence that this issue is even on your radar screen, I now doubt your sincerity. I don't believe that you or anyone at the City Paper has the best interests of all urban neighborhoods, unless those neighborhoods fit a preconceived notion of chic. My sour perception of your publication is exactly the impression that I intend to pass on to other neighborhood leaders as a warning for future reference.
I have yet to get a reply from Mr. Williams, but I guess the lack of response reflects his willingness to stand pat on a truly bad story.

But this is not the first time William Williams' name has been connected to bad City Paper stories about a neighborhood he seems to know very little about. While looking back over my archives, I found this September Enclave post on a Williams' article that reflected grievous ignorance about developments in Salemtown beyond the plans for Garfield Place.

A related note: I was told by a reliable source yesterday that City Paper reporter Bill Harless, while collecting data for Wednesday's Salemtown front-pager, attempted to convince the Central Precinct officers to divulge the personal e-mail addresses of the North End neighborhood contacts that the February 17 e-mail warning of possible gang violence went out to, even after he was refused those addresses on grounds of confidentiality. What do you think: breach of journalistic ethics or just a fair attempt to dig up information vital to the story?

Historic Germantown's Objectives For Morgan Park

Germantown community leader, Ernest Campbell, presented his neighborhood's objectives for Morgan Park at last night's Salemtown Neighbors association meeting. Morgan Park sits on the boundary between Germantown and Salemtown. He also asked for the participation and endorsement of Salemtown Neighbors in efforts to realize those objectives, including either having a SNNA officer join with Germantown leaders or starting a joint Salemtown/Germantown committee on Morgan Park.

The specific objectives that Mr. Campbell introduced have already been formulated by the Historic Germantown Neighborhood Committee on Morgan Park after a charette on Morgan Park a few years ago. Those objectives include:

  1. Creation of a place of natural beauty ... including extensive presentation of native and city-worthy specimens
  2. An attractive and well-maintained playground area with varied equipment for families in Germantown, Salemtown, and East Germantown
  3. A realization of the "Nashville Horticultural Gardens" originally begun on the site around 1845
  4. An appropriate linkage with and destination on the Metro Greenways System
  5. A water feature commemorating the "Sulphur Spring"
  6. To unify the two halves of the Park ... and convert the area between 3rd and 4th into multipurpose recreation area
  7. Growing identity of the Park as an art-friendly setting
  8. Restoration of the existing 100-year old building ... at 5th and Hume
  9. Extensive expansion of the Park toward the Cumberland River
Mr. Campbell expressed his group's concern that the current renovations--to which Metro has committed $200,000--do not include the HGN Committees objectives, and asked for SNNA's help. He told us that Metro is slated to put the greenway in as a connector to a Germantown greenway, which itself would connect to Bicentennial Mall (no planned Salemtown connector). In the short discussion that followed, SNNA neighbors expressed support for, concern about, and opposition to some of the Germantown objectives.

That dividedness and ambivalence is also the way I feel about the objectives. There are some that I believe are strong and worthy of Salemtown support. There are others, like converting the baseball diamond and removal of fences, that I do not believe would be in the best interests of Salemtown families. I also have concerns about conversion of the old playground (which needs to be updated); I would like to see what kind of playground the HGN Committee envisions before signing off on this plan. It seems like most of the objectives are adult-friendly and attractive to individuals and to families without children, but if the North End is going to be a strong and diverse community, we need more amenities that will attract families with children, not less. As it stands right now, Morgan Park is the center of activity for children and teenagers in the North End, and most if not all of those kids live in Salemtown. They play both baseball and football on the diamond (with their families gathered to watch) and they spend the remains of their afternoons around the community center. And those are good things that ought to be promoted, not changed. Morgan Park should be more than just a back-balcony vista for Morgan Park Place.

We should make sure that we listen to the concerns of long-time Salemtown residents, some of whom have lived here much longer than the 20 or so years that Historic Germantown has been in existence. Rightly or wrongly, they have felt left out of Historic Germantown's setting of priorities for the North End, and it seems that no one from the Germantown group consulted Salemtown residents when the former moved its boundaries north into Salemtown from Van Buren St. to Hume St., after it became clear that Werthan Bag would redevelop residentially. Some in Salemtown may interpret the Morgan Park objectives as further unilateral action on the part of Germantown organizers, without regard for Salemtown. So, if SNNA is going to sign off on these objectives, we should make sure that our residents feel that they have some ownership of and influence over them, too.

Having said that, I believe that it would be a mistake to opt out and not participate in this discussion. Because Morgan Park is so central to the life of our neighborhood, our voices need to be heard when Metro makes decisions about how to spend our tax-dollars on the park. If Salemtown does not correspond and communicate our concerns to the Germantown committee, either by participation or by formation of a larger, two-neighborhood committee, chances are that we will have absolutely no influence over the decisions that get made. That would be tragic: no response would confirm any notions that Salemtown is not a force with which to be reckoned.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN) Hones In On States

A couple of weeks ago, PLAN launched its website in order to track legislation at the state level and to invite progressives who attend to and write about state politics to join. Their primary intention is to coordinate and organize weblogs and writers state-by-state to promote a progressive agenda on behalf of working families against the corporate interests that seem to dominate legislative and executive branches in state government. Their website includes their own weblog with a blogroll of weblogs from the 50 states. I added their links to Enclave's generally unchanging right-column boxes.

So, I signed on to their effort. I am a bit surprised to see that Enclave remains the only Tennessee weblog listed on their roll, because surely we have other progressives interested enough in Tennessee public policy to contact PLAN and add their blog to PLAN's growing list. (I did see that Forward With Ford is trying this week to get itself added to PLAN's blogroll). Check PLAN out.

No More Funkytown

Has anyone noticed that Salemtown no longer stinks the days after holidays and on Mondays? I think that we have all avoided discussing the absence of funk so as not to jinx ourselves, but it's been at least 6 months now since I detected the sludge scent, which used to waft westward from the Central Wastewater Treatment Facility over on 2nd Ave. at least one day a week. The short-term changes Metro Water started late last summer seem to be working, even as we await the 2008 completion of construction of the new biosolids facility and its greenway.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Can I Get A Witness?

Lord, have mercy. One of the better rejections of the Nashville City Paper's front-page melodramatic and overplayed rendering of Salemtown this past Wednesday was left on the Readers-Submitted-Comments section of their website the next day by cvanatta21:
You've bungled a big one here!!!! Clearly you have spent no time in the area, or studying the real area of Germantown and Salemtown. I was warned by everyone 4 years ago about how bad it was, and that I should never invest or live in the area, and that came from east nashvillians - who had no idea, and who wanted their land values to keep climbing without competition. Needless to say - in the last four years, any tagging, violence, etc. has greatly decreased. That area has, and will continue to change, for the better .... I have lived my whole life here, in Donelson, Bellevue, Hendersonville, Green Hills, and Downtown. I currently live in Green Hills, and I have suffered and or seen more violence there than any friends in Germantown or Salemtown have over the last 4 years. In fact, I will be moving to Salemtown over the next few months. I hope you wrote this article in an attempt to get police over there and clean it up, and not out of spite, ignorance, hatred, foolishness, or boredom - because you have done nothing to help the situation - the more new people that move in to the area - the better - and you have just alienated it, and made it twice as hard to continue the great progress in the area .... I am still a huge City Paper fan, but I won't be much longer with crap like that.
Of course, the City Paper never promised on the front end of interviews to "help the situation," although they sure as hell made it seem like they were interested in helping out.

Ernest Campbell To Speak To Salemtown Neighbors Meeting Tomorrow

The February association meeting of Salemtown Neighbors is tomorrow (Monday) night at 6:30 p.m. at the Morgan Park Community Center. Featured speaker is long-time Germantown resident and community leader, Ernest Campbell, who will address SNNA on planned improvements at Morgan Park.

Here is an interesting Tennessean article on Ernest and his wife Berdelle concerning their efforts to revitalize Germantown. One of the important things that they did was to purchase property as it was put on the market over the years to insure that it would go residential rather than be bought up by industry unfriendly to residential life. With the federal block grant awarded to Salemtown, we currently have similar opportunities. One of the options that our neighborhood leaders have is to use block grant monies to purchase blighted property in efforts to enhance the quality of life on our side of the North End.

Channel 4 News Reports Focus on Neighborhoods Tonight

Kudos to WSMV's 10:00 report tonight for following three neighborhood stories neglected and/or ignored by other news broadcasts. Channel 4 covered stories on the formation of a neighborhood watch in Crieve Hall in response to recent burglaries, a shooting on Meridian St. in East Nashville, and the ICON development in the Gulch near Downtown.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Beware The Mainstream Media's Clichéd Juxtapositions Of New Orleans In Carnival

Before you swallow the national news on this year's Mardi Gras (including the its local echo on Channels 2, 4, & 5), read this well-rounded treatment by a Times-Picayune reporter. You'll get some perspective from natives, which should cause temperance of the transmitted stereotypes and sound-bites to which we will be exposed before Lent sets in on Ash Wednesday. For instance, were you aware that Carnival segregates locals from tourists, encouraging the latter to stay in "a Disneyland, French Quarter-Garden District version of Mardi Gras," away from New Orleans' "real culture"? The real Carnival in New Orleans is like a neighborhood-by-neighborhood reunion of local families, who gather on street corners to watch privately-sponsored parades and share food and drink. That sounds like tonic for weary and storm-tossed souls to me; so, why would we ever blame them for having Carnival this year?

Friday, February 24, 2006

The City Paper Remains Silent On Its Inaccuracies

It looks as if the powers that be at the Nashville City Paper have decided not to run any corrections, clarifications, or retractions concerning Wednesday's front page mislead on Salemtown, even though William Williams told me on Wednesday that it was a distinct possibility. I think two days is plenty of time to get some sort of statement out, and now that the weekend is upon us, we won't be seeing anything until Monday (if at all), since the City Paper does not publish on the weekends. Given the City Paper's offence, that's not good enough.

I understand that the reason for the City Paper's gross inaccuracies in the Salemtown story are an unsettled staff (signified by the recent resignation of an editor), a lack of editorial checking of articles before publication, and the need to just run something, anything on the front page of Wednesday's edition. Remember those details when you read the City Paper or if they call you for an interview. There is stuff going on behind the stories that we do not see. And that stuff can bite. Those inner workings cause them to pitch and spin the information so that it does not resemble reality on the ground, at least in the case of Salemtown.

I've already mentioned reporter Bill Harless's lack of research into the context of the January graffiti incidents, but there were other problems. When Mr. Harless pitched the story during the interview process, he sold it as if it was going to focus on the communication process between our neighborhood watch and the police department. He said that he was particularly interested in the e-mail that went out from the Central Precinct to the Salemtown and Germantown neighborhood associations. He said that he had never heard of such an early warning system about criminal activity going out like weather alerts. But given the headline, picture, and story as written, it now seems plain to me that the reporter may have been using the old bait-and-switch routine. The mention of the e-mail in the story is only passing, and most of the rest is bent on sensationalizing gang issues so that they do not resemble reality in Salemtown. Even Harless's comments about Germantown are exaggerated on the positive side to put Salemtown in a more unsettling light. If you've read Enclave long enough, you've read that Germantown has had its share of crime and challenges, which are more details with which Mr. Harless refuses to be bothered.

We've learned the hard way here in Salemtown. If the City Paper ever comes calling for a story on your neighborhood, your safest course may be to say, "No comment," and then to hang up. Their piece on Salemtown has seemed like long, deep, slow tongue action with death. Granted, it would have been difficult for the City Paper to write anything in the last two days to repair the damage they did on Wednesday. You never get a second chance to make a first front-page impression. But beyond returning some angry phone calls, it looks like they are not going to make any effort to take responsibility for their mistakes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Meanwhile, In New Orleans: During And After Katrina, Kenneth Rapuano Was In Charge At The White House

Now that the ridiculous distraction over Dick Cheney's gunplay is over, maybe real issues like disaster response will no longer be shoved to the side.

Who is Kenneth Rapuano? He was the only White House staffer not on vacation as Katrina barreled on shore and battered New Orleans, but he was at home in bed asleep as disaster reports at the White House grew morbid. Here's a portion of the account from the February 27 Newsweek:
[On Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, as Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans,] at 9:51 [p.m.], [FEMA Chief Michael] Brown received an e-mail from White House chief of staff Andy Card, who told him he had been kept "well-informed about your reports. Anything you want me to do??" Brown replied, "Thanks for writing, Andy. This is a bad one. Housing, transportation and environment could be long term issues."

Card may have been concerned, but he wasn't in a position to be of much help. Like President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and homeland-security adviser Frances Townsend, Card was on vacation when the hurricane struck. Back at the White House, the job of monitoring the storm was left to Kenneth Rapuano, Townsend's deputy. At 10 p.m., Rapuano left the White House to go home for the night, believing everything was under control.

It wasn't. Half an hour later, at 10:30 p.m., the Homeland Security Operations Center sent out a two-page bulletin reporting massive flooding and bodies floating in the water. Rapuano later told Congress that no one at the White House woke him to tell him about the report, and he didn't realize the extent of the damage until 6 the following morning, when another Homeland bulletin warned that "it could take months to dewater" the city. Only then did it begin to dawn on top administration officials, including the president, how grave a human—and political—disaster they were facing.

Six months later, there still isn't a clear account of what Bush and his top aides were doing in the hours and days after the levees crumbled and the misery set in. The prolonged confusion is partly explained by the White House's refusal to turn over many of the records and e-mails requested by the Senate and a special House committee investigating the fiasco.
Maybe we should be lowering future expectations on the safety and security front with this White House.

The Gold Dome Is Profounder Than The Purple Finger

(photos from Christian Science Monitor)
With the destruction of this 1,200-year-old Shi'ite mosque (the gilded dome had stood for a century and had even survived while Saddam was in power), it's the eve of civil war in Iraq, and we're still throwing American lives and American tax dollars loan money from Dubai and China into what looks to be a protracted hellhole of Shi'ites and Sunnis at each others' throats. I believe that we are past the point now of saying, "We cannot leave or it will spiral down into chaos." Ladies and gentlemen, the chaos is now up to our armpits and rising. Forget an exit plan; President Bush obviously had no plans to deter what is being called a "Shi'ite 9/11" in the city of Samarra (if for no other reason than to keep Iran at bay). So, we have to ask, what are we fighting for in Iraq and whom are we failing at home?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

City Paper Apologizes For Misleading Headline. Mama Told Me There'd Be Damaging Lead-Ins Like These

There is a lively debate about urban neighborhoods on the Nashville City Paper website today, as there should be whenever the City Paper gets something so obviously wrong as it has in today's frontpage headline screaming, "Developments cause trouble in Salemtown." I have criticized the City Paper in the past for disconnects that mislead the reader to unsupported conclusions. In the previous case the subject was the Nashville Sounds; this morning the case is my own neighborhood.

Earlier today I spoke with City Paper business/news editor William Williams, who--before I had a chance to lodge my complaint about today's City-Paper-Salemtown sensationalism--apologized for the headline and the negative view painted of Salemtown. Williams told me that the City Paper should not have run the headline, which was not supported by the facts in the story. He conceded that the headline and the picture were a one-two punch below the belt given the content in the story.

I also spoke with City Paper reporter Bill Harless and emphasized to him that, if he's going to write the story with the picture of vandalism that he ought to give a little more context to the vandalized property, which would have softened the sensationalism of a single snapshot in time. For instance, the picture and the story might lead readers to think that the developers of Garfield Place put up a sign that was immediately vandalized. But developers of Garfield Place put their sign up over 8 months ago and it was only hit by gang graffiti in January. That's a pretty important piece of information to leave out of the picture. You cannot tell me that that omission would not affect people's decisions to live in Salemtown.

The frontpage of the Nashville City Paper this morning is an exact textbook example of how NOT to report on gang activities in Nashville. It sensationalized the actual story and it discourages further neighborhood development; worst case scenerio: it might even validate vandals targeting developers. I understand that the City Paper may run something in a future edition to try to offset the mistakes in this one. Let's hope that too much damage has not already been done. If there is irreparable damage from this story, you can just write a new screaming headline: "Nashville City Paper Takes Salemtown Down!"

2/22/2006 3:45 p.m. Update: The webmaster at the City Paper has replaced the misleading headline with a new, diametrically opposing one: "Salemtown leaders: Gang activity not driven by new development," but how can we undo the damage of unchangeable hard copy floating around out there?

I'd Say The Scoreboard Industry Is A Pretty Sweet Racket

Sony makes the Nashville Predators a multi-million dollar scoreboard less than a decade ago and then stops making parts for it, essentially forcing the Preds to buy a completely new multi-million dollar scoreboard "in order to keep up." That's quite an industry.

We need to find another name for them, because they are no longer just scoreboards. Scoreboards were those industrial-grade, wall-mounted boxes we glanced at back in high school; they usually had certain lights burned out so that we couldn't tell whether a digit was a "0" or an "8." At $3.6 million, I would not call what the Nashville Predators and the Sports Authority want a scoreboard. I would call it a "Broadcast Interface With A Panoramic Sharper-Than-Life Multi-Faceted LED Cluster." Whatever you want to call it, we still cannot afford it. The Preds either need to find a corporate sponsor to buy them this Cluster or we need to jack up taxes on game and season tickets so that the hockey fans cover the extra expense. An outside option is to lure the State of Dubai to purchase Metro bonds to pay for the most advanced scoreboard ever built while simultaneously freeing up more money to pay for public education (I can hear the public announcer now: "Today's game is brought to you by the United Arab Emirates. We only allowed nuclear components to be smuggled to Iran once"). That could also steer Dubai away from ownership of our strategic seaports. Since neither the NHL nor the GEC is of any strategic consequence in the war on terror, I think we'd be safe.

That $500,000 a year cap on Metro's financial obligations to the Nashville Sounds doesn't look so bad now, does it?

Expect Lines Like This To Grow Longer

Here's why. The more modest the income, the more these plans hurt.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This Can Only End With The President Claiming, "No One Could Have Predicted That Outsourcing Our Ports Would Have Lead To A Terrorist Attack."

On the very same day that the Bush administration told Palestinian Hamas that it cannot have one foot in terrorism and one foot in politics, it faces a firestorm of controversy for handing over control of six American ports next week to the state of Dubai (of the United Arab Emirates), which has had one foot in terrorism (as a financial nexus for funding al Qaeda) and one foot in politics (letting U.S. ships dock in Dubai). The rancor has blown up in George Bush's face, yet he still intends to veto any congressional attempt to kill this deal.

I'm still trying to figure out how it is that security justifies tapping the phones of Americans, but security does not lead the President to pause before handing over control of six major American ports to a state with a checkered history on terrorism. My quandary has nothing to do with racism, bigotry, or prejudice. I wouldn't be happy with the State of Israel controlling American ports with their recent track record and some of the bedfellows they make in the region. If IRA terrorists declared war on America, Ireland would also be a bad choice. If we're going to outsource our ports, can't we find someone a little more neutral, someone with a cleaner record? Better yet, why outsource at all? We should come up with the tax money to nationalize our ports so that the U.S. government has strict control over what comes in and goes out of our currently porous shipping lanes.

According to the AP, the bipartisan congressional resistance to President Bush's veto threat is not the only backlash. Resistance is also getting organized at the local level at the ports affected:
New Jersey's governor, Jon S. Corzine, said Tuesday the state will file lawsuits in federal and state courts opposing the agreement. Corzine, a Democrat, cited a "deep, deep feeling that this is the wrong direction for our nation to take."
A company at the Port of Miami, a subsidiary of Eller & Company Inc., sued last week to block the deal in a Florida state court. It said that under the sale, it will become an "involuntary partner" with Dubai's government and it may seek more than $10 million in damages.
According to the Telegraph:
Governor George Pataki of New York and his Maryland counterpart have asked the courts to "explore all legal options", raising the possibility they may seek court approval to void contracts if the deal goes ahead.
According to the New York Times, the Mayor of New York City also waded into the fray in order to try to stop the deal from going through next week:
"We have not received the necessary assurances regarding security concerns," [Michael] Bloomberg wrote in a letter to the president on Tuesday evening. He said he was joining New York's two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, in calling for a 45-day investigation of the deal under a federal law that governs the review of foreign investments.
American security is not the only issue at stake in this fight. Cities like New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Miami are going to be on the front lines of terrorist attempts on our ports. Local leaders, Republicans and Democrats, should be duly alarmed.

Initial TV Reports On Millersville Church Vandalism Rendered Visible Gang-Related Graffiti Invisible

The general pitch of this past weekend's reports on the local news about vandalism in a small church was that the graffiti was probably a racist hate-crime; I heard no mention of gang-related graffiti, despite the fact that on at least one broadcast (News 2) the camera got a clear shot of the name of a street gang, "Crips," scrawled next to "KKK." The other broadcast I watched, NewsChannel 5, not only did not mention gang-related vandalism, but only showed video of racist words like "KKK." Only in this morning's Tennessean am I reading reports of gang-related graffiti in the church amongst the other race-based graffiti.

I'm wondering why, with such ambiguous vandalism, did the initial reports clearly run with this story as some kind of garden variety racist bigotry, leaving no first impression that street gangs could be involved? My initial response to the cognitive dissonance caused by seeing the word "Crips" on the News 2 report while hearing the News 2 reporter talk about race-hate vandalism was to think that I had misread the graffiti. Why do the mainstream news stations seem to continue to ignore street-gang vandalism, in spite of the possibility that such gang activity is growing in our city and may be incubating in small satellite towns like Millersville, far and away?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Local Television Stations: The Actual Cause Of All Dumbed-Down News?

It's pretty obvious to me that local news broadcasts participate in dumbing down news whenever they ignore hard news stories for pieces on Powerball jackpots and The Bachelor's chick-choice. But according to Former CBS News reporter Tom Fenton, local television has even less obvious, but more significant influence over dumbed-down national news than I previously understood. If you didn't know this, you'll be surprised yourself.

Fenton criticizes corporate resistance to expanding evening news reports beyond their 30-minute segments and corporate tendencies toward "easy revenue with cheaper outlay and less hard news." But the culprits are not simply the networks:
[T]he public's demands [for more hard news] get dissipated in the complex decentralized structure of channel ownership. Local television stations are the real profit centers [emphasis mine]. The networks that simply supply programs to affiliate stations have slim profit margins, but the owners of the stations make bags of money broadcasting on the nation's free airwaves [emphasis mine]. Which explains why the local stations have always resisted suggestions to expand the network news broadcasts, or move them into the evening hours, which are traditionally filled with the most popular and profitable entertainment shows.
Fenton goes on to say that one of the ways to change local stations' constriction and compression of hard news on every level is for groups of viewers and journalists to organize and threaten licenses by constantly reporting local broadcasters to the FCC. The changes made by CBS after Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction," is an example for Fenton of the influence that mobilizing groups can have over programming.

Where do political, media, and news-oriented weblogs stand in this? To me they stand at a critical juncture. Either they can be watchdogs of local media and agents that encourage organizing for broadcasting reform or they can become tools of local broadcasters, some of whom belong to powerful lobbies in Washington and in state houses. Whatever original reporting is done by weblogs provides an important alternative to the watery discharge that often passes for news, but actually only fills up the hypnotic space of "human interest" like the creamy junk filling a spongy twinkie. Weblogs can either allow themselves to become mesmerized by stuff like The Bachelor to follow suit, or they can be a true alternative, providing significant news free of the dumbed-down static of mainstream media.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Neo/New Nashville

Salemtown Neighbors By-Laws Committee Finishing First Draft

After 6 meetings spread out over December, January, and February, the By-Laws Committee of Salemtown Neighbors is nearing completion of its by-laws draft to present to the association at its next meeting on February 27. Association members will have a month to look over the draft before voting on the new by-laws on March 27.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Central Precinct Warns North End Associations Of Possible Gang Activity This Weekend

An alert from Metro Police went out to neighborhood association presidents in the North End on Friday afternoon about possible gang activities to occur in the Salemtown neighborhood over the weekend. The nature of those activities is unknown, but police encourage all North End residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior immediately. The Salemtown Neighborhood Watch was notified soon after the police alert went out.

Summers Makes Own Bed And Takes It On The Chin

We are not surprised in the least by these results, and not because we believe that the winners had a just cause, either. There was no way that the tally would ever prove anything beyond which side could take advantage of a flawed voting process. All Council member John Summers can do now is defer the bills; otherwise, they will go down. But he's talking now with grandeur, like "his analysis" of the vote is going to make a dramatic difference with others. He doesn't seem to understand that he is not a neutral party and that his "analysis" will not be trusted. He continues to do disservice to the cause of conserving historic neighborhoods. He really did set the conservation cause up for failure in Sylvan Park, and he should just let go of this issue now and move on to other things.

Friday, February 17, 2006

First Look At Salem Gardens

The developers tell me that construction is about to start on the southwest corner of 6th Ave. and Garfield St. This mixed-use development will have 21 residences and over 7000 sq. ft. of retail space. Zeitlin is the exclusive real estate agent for Salem Gardens.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Finally. Progress on Perks

Temper tantrums over perks are more common than the American taxpayer might like to believe.

- - Maureen Dowd

I don't know if Council members are having tantrums over this, but it's about time someone with the power took some of their perquisites away. If they're going to play golf or ice skate, they should kick in their fair share to support it, just like the rest of us.

The Dawn Of A New Season

Pitchers and catchers report today to Florida and Arizona for the start of Spring Training, so baseball is underway, and summer has unofficially begun! In honor of this festive occasion, a recitation on Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest players ever (who will, thanks to the 1919 "Black Sox" World Series scandal, never be a Hall of Famer), is in order. Jackson is pictured with Ty Cobb above.

Ernie Shore said of Jackson,
Everything he hit was really blessed. He could break bones with his shots. Blindfold me and I could still tell you when Joe hit the ball. It had a special crack.
Babe Ruth (who as a Yankee played a few exhibition games at the North End's old Sulphur Dell ballpark) said,
I copied Jackson's style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He's the guy who made me a hitter.
He received his nickname "Shoeless," after playing a minor league game in his stockings because a new pair of spikes had given him blisters on his feet the previous day. Fans started cursing him as a "shoeless sonuvabitch," and the name stuck.

According to authors Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns, Shoeless Joe had been taught to bat by a Confederate veteran who had learned his baseball from Union soldiers in a northern prison camp. Ward & Burns quote a sportswriter who described Jackson:
He was pure country, a wide-eyed, gullible yokel. It would not have surprised me in those days to learn he had made a down payment on the Brooklyn Bridge .... He was a drinker and a heavy one. He carried his own tonic: triple-distilled corn. And on occasions he carried a parrot, a multi-colored pest whose vocabulary was limited to screeching, "You're out!"
But Shoeless Joe Jackson could hit like few others. The only player to hit over .400 in his rookie year with Cleveland, Jackson holds the third highest batting average in recorded baseball history (.356) behind Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. What is most amazing to me about Jackson's plate prowess, is that he hit so well in the days before pitched spit balls were outlawed and before owners started juicing baseballs to give hitters an advantage.

I have no triple-distilled corn on me, but nevertheless, here's to the memory of Shoeless Joe and to the return of baseball in 2006!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Are Patients Or Is Insurance Causing The Crisis?

Did you notice the big headline splashed across today's Nashville City Paper? "Physician liability in Tennessee ‘in crisis’: AMA," as if common patients who seek legal redress are the cause of an impending medical crisis. It's a one-sided piece about two Republican legislators who are seeking to cap awards on malpractice suits. I've already pointed out that, according to some, capping those awards has more to do with business and less to do with medicine. The AMA is a guild-advocacy group designed for MDs to organize to have influence over the political process. I don't begrudge MDs the right to organize. But for the City Paper to treat this as anything more than what it is ain't fair to readers. MDs save a lot of lives and heal people; but there are probably as many good people and as many charlatans within the medical field as there are in the general population, and the collective voice of MDs should not be given any more weight on the matter of public policy than that of patients.

What really sticks in my craw about reporter Judith Tackett's skewed story is that it is blind to insurance industry machinations behind the scenes of medicine and within the workings of the General Assembly. Why do reporters keep giving the insurance industry a free pass on these issues, as if it is the very inalterable water in which medicine swims? Ms. Tackett made scant mention of "tort reform" opponents as if their only concerns were about poor people and not about how the insurance industry may in fact be rigging the game. Some of us smell the stink while Ms. Tackett seems to be merely holding her nose and refusing to do any kind of research into the medical insurance industry in Tennessee.

Yesterday's Batty Stats

My statcounter was simply bonkers yesterday.

I'm still not believing my eyes: 1,276 pageloads (my previous daily high was 294). 785 visitors (previous high was 167) over a duration of 24 hours.

Lesson: adding pictures you take of celebrities working on highly anticipated projects definitely increases audience, at least for a while.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Downtown's Small Celebrity Spaces

While I was Downtown scouting out "small urban spaces," film crews were Downtown shooting a music video. Someone named "Carrie Underwood" was doing takes at the corner of Church St. and Capitol Blvd. in a phone booth prop (there is no actual phone booth at that corner, for those fans who intend to make a pilgrimage here to see it). From the looks of it, Ms. Underwood is the country music industry's latest deb.

Mugging for Mike. Ms. Underwood smiles for my camera between takes. At this point I was what the Director called a "bogey" (a non-extra who is potentially in the shot).

Getting ready to shoot. Snow on the ground. Mid-30 degree temps. Ms. Underwood is dressed for summertime, but she's got a space heater pointed into the phone booth. The guy in the blue short-sleeve on the right side of the picture with no space heater is an extra.

Rolling. In character. Sans space heater. Brrrrr.

02/14/2006, 2:15 p.m. Update: A couple of the Carrie Underwood fans among the throng massing to this link today have clarified for me who she is: she's an American Idol winner (guess it shows that I don't watch that program or keep up with popular trends in Country music). Thanks to the fan sites that linked Enclave and vaulted my stats to numbers I never imagined Enclave might attain.

02/14/2006, 4:00 p.m. Update: My favorite comments on one of those fanboards publicizing these pictures are about my Underwood-cluelessness:
casper: ... Interesting that the person taking [the pictures] didn't know who Carrie even was.
ocean18: Yeah that was interesting. How do you not know who Carrie Underwood is?! I love her outfit. I want that!
I will post one more picture that I took of Ms. Underwood at yesterday's video-shoot this evening between 7:00 and 8:00 CST, just to say thanks to all you Underwood fans for stopping by. You all have a keener appreciation for these pics than I do.

02/14/2006, 7:40 p.m., Update: Here is the only other picture I took of Ms. Underwood yesterday that I did not previously publish.

Hanging up the phone.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Downtown Nashville's Small Public Spaces: Church St. At The Library

My viewing of the film on small urban public spaces last week motivated me to scout around Downtown to survey the public spaces there. I started with the small park at the corner of Church St. and Capital Blvd. across from the Downtown Public Library, which was mentioned in the discussion after the film. There are a number of homeless people who stay in that park during the day, probably because they can use the public library computers to go online and their restrooms to relieve themselves. As mentioned at the showing, a relatively large number of homeless people in public spaces may be a deterrent to other visitors staying. While I was at the park, one of the homeless men proceeded into what looked like some martial arts techniques, high-kicking and various gyrations at the air in front of him. That could probably scare some folks off.

I took some pictures of characteristics of the park that were mentioned in the film:

The park opens invitingly to the sidewalk and it is only slightly obstructed from the street by small concrete and wrought iron planters with small trees in them. Since "people-watching" is one of the primary attractors of public spaces, the clear lines of sight in all directions should work in its favor.
It is also lit well by direct sunlight. According to the filmmakers, spaces do not have to be in absolute sunlight, but they should be well lit by at least indirect sunlight. In the distance you may be able to make out a crowd around a telephone booth and a large rectangular light fixture. I'll tell you more about what was going on there in my next post.
The film mentioned visible water features as strong attractors of people to public spaces. The sidewalks that run through the park converge at the fountain. Visitors to the park are in close contact with this fountain and the wall provides roomy seating. Public art is also considered an attractor; there is a mural on the wall of the building sitting flush to the park's edge (I didn't get a picture of that).
There are a lot of places to sit in this park, including retaining walls and benches, but no movable seating, which the film called a strong attractor. However, the seating provides various angles for people-watching, and there are "edges" that allow those who desire to "be away" from the crowd places to sit.

Overall, I would consider this public park fairly close to fitting what the filmmakers had in mind for optimum public space in a city. The scale is somewhat small, compared to some of the places in New York City the film looked at, but I got the impression that small scale is much better in the researchers' minds than oversizing a space.

Claire's Ledger

In a town where every other person is a singer/songwriter, I don't link very many singer/songwriters, except for Claire Small, who has been a URL fixture in Enclave's right-hand column from the beginning.

I've tried to tell you people before to go to Claire's shows, but if you won't take my word for it, maybe you'll listen to this week's Nashville Scene. More to the point, maybe you'll listen to Claire on February 15 at the Basement during her first CD release of her first full length album, "Ledger."

Vapid Inanity: News That Is Fit To Be Skid-Marked

With all of the stories that could be written across the naked city, why does this count as news?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Urban Homicide Rate Story In Sunday's NY Times: Includes Nashville and Comments From Serpas

This morning's New York Times has an important story on the skyrocketing city homicide rates, which seem to be a national trend. A graphic table comparing the upticks in violent crimes in various cities--including Nashville--over a five year period is also attached to the article.

The primary basis for most of the murders seems to be people upset over petty disputes and arguments. These disputes generally involve personal issues like "disrespecting" or even looking the wrong way at another person. In many cases, killers and victims know each other. But even where the primary crimes involve robbery, perpetrators are much more likely to shoot victims now than they have been in the past.

According to the article, police across the country blame the rising availability of guns on the street and the relative ease with which permits to carry guns may be obtained (in Philadelphia, for example the number of people authorized to carry guns has risen from 700 to 32,000 since 1985). And they blame judges' lax sentencing and light bail. The Times mentions Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas on this point; saying that he tells of an 18-year-old who had been arrested 41 times, but who was out on bail when he killed someone during a dice game. Other factors that the Times mentions includes impoverished neighborhoods and the shrinkage of an industrial base that used to provide jobs for those without an education.

This is a very helpful piece for understanding the scope of the problem that many of us in urban neighborhoods worry over.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Enclave!

Enclave: Nashville North-by-Northwest is a year old today. Over the last 365 days it generated 675 posts, including a lot of original news that probably wouldn't have otherwise seen the light of day.

Enclave has registered 35,000 page loads and 20,000 unique visitors since I started keeping stats last February. Its growth has been progressive: during the first half of the past year, it averaged 42 page loads and 28 unique visitors a day; during the second half, daily averages triped to 128 page loads and 84 unique visitors. Enclave only earns me about 5 cents a day from readers' clicks of its unobtrusive ads, but I didn't start it as a capital enterprise, so I don't measure success by cash flow. I'm much more pleased by the increasing number of people reading and returning to Enclave. I was also pleased to see Enclave nominated for an award, featured on a local newscast, and linked by several other prominent sources.

I intend to take the next couple of days off from writing to re-evaluate and decide whether to keep going or to close Enclave down. As rewarding as it has been, it is also time-consuming and attention-intensive, and I have other projects in my life. So, thanks for checking Enclave out and making this such a success by my standards. And, unless something hugely newsworthy happens between now and then, I'll see you in a couple of days.

Nashville Civic Design Center Shows "The Social Life Of Small Urban Spaces"

Last night I attended the NCDC's showing of "The Social Life Of Small Urban Spaces," a local documentary shot during the late 1970s in New York City showing what aspects of public spaces attract people and those that do not. As dated as the movie might appear, it seemed very relevant in underscoring that the primary problem of small public spaces (like small fountain plazas and greens in Downtown areas) is underuse, rather than overuse. If developers are going to attract people to public spaces, they have to build in certain aspects, like lots of "edges" in large empty spaces, places to sit and seats that can be moved around, areas open and oriented to the street rather than cut off by fences, planters or trees, areas compressed to a scale that brings people together, natural attractors like water, sufficient light, and trees, and amenities like food and book vendors.

One of the more fascinating conclusions of the researchers, supported through the use of time lapse photography and data-collectors recording head-counts, was the idea that people in public spaces seem to have an "instinctive feel" for what makes a proper capacity or a critical mass, and they seem to enter, stay, and exit accordingly. Researchers demonstrated that in one popular city plaza during the heavily trafficked lunch hours, while the degree of turnover of people was high, the number of people occupying the space never really increased above or decreased below about 19 or 20 for a significant amount of time. That may be an uncanny capacity instinct, unless researchers failed to factor out the more socialized habits of "regulars" (those people who return to public spaces like clockwork).

Given the projected growth of Downtown residents from 4,000 to 10,000 over the next few years, the NCDC announced the creation of a task force to study Downtown's small public spaces to get a feel for use of the few that exist. Organizers of last night's event said that they could not come up with many examples in Downtown beyond the small park across from the Downtown Public Library, which tends to be occupied mostly by homeless people. But in just walking out of the NCDC and going about a block to my car I was able to identify the small green plaza at the foot of the BellSouth "Batman" Building that seemed to have some of the important aspects mentioned in the film. There are probably a few such spaces around Downtown waiting to be found, but the research that this task force is going to do is nonetheless important for Downtown's growing residential community.

Zoning Changes Requested By Developers of 1600 6th Ave. Approved By Metro Council

The owners of the property at the corner of 6th Ave. and Hume St. received approval for their townhouse development on 3rd and final reading last night right after the ballpark bills passed. Look for construction to start.

Morgan Park Place Progress Visuals

Last Night's Silliest Moments

Besides Ludye Wallace's failed attempt to defer the ballpark bill last night based on the dopey reason, "two more weeks won't hurt anything," there were few really silly moments like in past council debates. However, a handful of other Council members did provide some material that left me shaking my head.

First, John Summers rose yet again to oppose the ballpark, but he based his opposition on a survey he said he conducted in Sylvan Park a couple of years ago. Hasn't this guy been in enough hot water with surveys of his neighborhood? My worst fear in the case that Mr. Wallace might have had his deferral pass was that Mr. Summers might come back two weeks from now with the announcement that he was working with Metro Legal to conduct a new mail survey of Sylvan Park attitudes about a new ballpark in order to put neighborhood controversy to rest.

Second, Carolyn Baldwin Tucker was locked into the term, "Memorandum of Understanding." While her peers adopted the abbreviation "MOU" in "PUD"-like fashion, Ms. Baldwin Tucker insisted on repeating "Memorandum of Understanding" so many times in her 5 minute talk against the ballpark that I stopped listening to what she was saying just for the sport of counting the number of times she repeated it.

Third, Eric Crafton compared Metro's commitment to pay the Sounds $500,000 per year in the lease agreement with his own hypothesis of building a house on Belle Meade Boulevard, paying for everything, and then charging Metro Nashville a small amount of cash per year to lease it to him. Umm, Eric? We are not inclined to buy season tickets (or any tickets for that matter) to watch you live or do whatever it is you would do in your Belle Meade dream-house.

City Paper: Struever Sees Hotel Connected To Shelby Street Bridge

The print media finally provided some substantive details about an interesting Council vote. It was not the Tennessean, which told us little this morning that we did not already know about the ballpark issue or Council deliberations (linking them would only be a waste of good bandwidth). Instead, reporter Bill Harless at the Nashville City Paper, of all newspapers, writes this morning about some of the relevant details of last night's Council deliberations on the ballpark that you would not have known unless you watched.

Harless also announced that Struever is "strongly leaning" toward building a hotel attached to the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge and that they will now pursue plans to develop properties into residential, retail, and office space along the new Gateway Boulevard from 1st Ave. to 4th Ave.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NewsChannel 5 Late On The Uptake

NewsChannel 5 was so busy getting the story of the ballpark approval that they missed the Council voting in favor of Council member Harold White's controversial Ravenwood Club development bill. What seemed like 10 minutes after I witnessed the Council vote in favor of the bill that brought Mr. White's integrity (or his interest in avoiding the appearance of impropriety) into question this week, Anchor Amy Marsalis told viewers that they were following that action, but the bill had not come up for a vote, yet. Oopsie.

BREAKING: Metro Council Votes For Sounds To Play Ball Downtown

Metro Council approves bill that authorizes the agreement negotiated by Mayor Bill Purcell to build a new ballpark Downtown, removing the last hurdle to relocation. The new ballpark will be built on the old thermal site.

Members who told the Council that they changed their minds to vote in support of the ballpark: Mr. Tygard, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Brown, Ms. Gillmore, Mr. Kerstetter.

Final landslide vote: 28-9.

EXCLUSIVE: Nashville Civic Design Center Announces Call For Design Teams

At a meeting to view a movie on pubic space this evening, officials with the Nashville Civic Design Center announced that a "Call for Design Proposals" was sent out last Thursday to 15 of what they called "the best design teams in the country" to submit design plans for the Cumberland Riverfront along a three-mile section adjacent to Downtown. NCDC report that they expect designs to connect urban neighborhoods around the river in the spirit of The Plan of Nashville. The proposal competition is supposed to last 8 months.

One Demonic Post

Well, this is post #666, which logically reminds me of the last set of tires I purchased a couple of years ago.

While filling out the paperwork for those Goodyears, the clerk at the tire place went out to check the mileage on my Jeep and returned all ashen-colored as if he saw a ghost. He said to me, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your mileage is 18,666! I feel real bad for you. That's a bad number." I didn't have to ask why he thought it was a bad number after so many years of being exposed to premillienialists. I made a quarter-hearted effort to console him, but I gave up and just let him go on believing that either my vehicle or I was somehow the spawn of Satan. I didn't tell him what I should have: "It's just an odometer, Maynard, not the harbingering mark of the beast." The demon on my shoulder tempted me to send him over the edge by telling him that I had seen four horsemen on the way to his place, but I responded instead to my better angels.

Blogger.com does not allow me the option to skip post #666, but I would if I could for the sake of those of readers who might, like the tire man, read way too much into numbers sometimes.

Very Moving Funeral Service For Coretta Scott King Today

I watched Coretta Scott King's moving funeral service today. There were some very emotional and cathartic moments. But my primary impression was that it afforded a level of national, political respect that MLK, Jr. didn't get at his death or in the years before his birthday was declared a national holiday. It is perhaps appropriate that Coretta who worked so long and hard for civil rights for all people should get it now, even though it is late in coming.

Some of my own favorite highlights: the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference gave a memorable rhymed recitation, even referring to the lack of care for America's poor and working class as "Weapons of Misdirection here" in contrast to no "Weapons of Mass Destruction there," engendering a strong, standing, and sustained ovation. Maya Angelou pledged that she would never stop trying to make the world more peaceful and just so that she could see it through her eyes and "through Coretta's eyes." Former President Jimmy Carter spoke of his placement in 1974 of a portrait of MLK with Coretta inside the Georgia State House, with the Georgia Ku Klux Klan massed outside. He referred to his presidential run in 1976 when Coretta and "Daddy King" endorsed him; Mr. Carter said that their "hand shakes were worth a million Yankee votes," which drew a ringing ovation. Carter also made reference to the federal government's wire-tapping and intrusive, illegal FBI investigations of the Kings. Former President Clinton was his usual down-to-earth self, reminding the gathered crowd that Coretta was not simply a symbol, but a real woman who raised her kids and faced the frustrations of life that all of us do. Mr. Clinton stated that no one would have blamed Coretta if she had just left the Civil Rights movement the day after her husband was killed and focused exclusively on her family; but, as Clinton said, she showed up in Memphis to take her husband's place leading the poor sanitation workers in their march for Civil Rights. Clinton paralleled Coretta's response to our obligations, asking, "What are we going to do now?" He also mentioned the King Center in Atlanta and asked wealthy Atlantians what they were going to do to save the financially troubled Center now that its creator is gone, saying the "difficulty of success does not alleviate us from the obligation of acting."

All in all it was a memorable and moving service and properly due to Coretta Scott King.

White Women Who Sham For The Man

This is what the crux of Metro's approval of a new ballpark has come to: a battle of the businesses fueled by distrust. Skepticism that white women will front for "sham" white male businesses seems unfeminist without specific examples. If white women business owners get "broken out" of the contract equation, where are the guarantees, in writing, that the African American business community and the Black Caucus will be womanist enough to make sure that black women contractors have their fair share of opportunity? Sexism is sexism regardless of the color, and skeptics need to be careful that their views of women not lapse into prejudice even as they try to fight prejudice themselves.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Tonight's Fox 17 Report On Gang Growth A Good Start

The story tonight didn't seem to glamorize gang life, which is a good thing. It focused on alarming growth: there are an estimated 5,000 gang members spread across Nashville in several different groups. Most alarming was the recent arrest of two gang members from MS 13, a gang with paramilitary roots in El Salvador, which is known for killing victims with machetes and torturing its own members in initiation ceremonies. According to a separate report shown earlier tonight on MSNBC, MS 13 is now spread across communities in 33 US states, including Tennessee. There was very little reference to other specific gang characteristics or neighborhoods. The Fox story mostly focused on police response to and causes of gang membership, and it quoted the pastor of an inner city church who used to be a gang member saying that living the gang life is living a lie. In a different segment tomorrow night, Fox 17 will interview the mother of a slain gang member. All in all, I thought this fit the bill of a kind of "early warning detection" approach--which I mentioned previously--that at least attempts to elicit responses from the public and the local government. This is a good start, but more work needs to be done on this problem by others.

Holy Fluff, Devotional Promotion

Last night's story by News 2's "religion and ethics" reporter, Jamey Tucker, on football players who pray only confirms my sense that he is bent on producing stories that make News 2 look more like Pat Robertson's 700 Club. Mr. Tucker seems less interested in reporting objectively and fairly on religious movements in Middle Tennessee; even though there are many opportunities to study religion here and probably more chances to excavate little-known, unpopular religious undercurrents.

Tucker could have done a very interesting story, interviewing individual players and consulting religious leaders from different persuasions on the matter. Instead, his "report" was a pander piece that merely 1) noted that some players pray (not news), 2) asked why they pray (I don't need News 2 in order to ask that), and 3) provided the answer via a single source: conservative Christian sports agent Kyle Rote, Jr., who gave his idea of theologically correct things players should pray for, which sounded like a daily devotional. Smattered throughout Mr. Tucker's report were matter-of-fact references to what "scripture" teaches and to "God" as if those theological terms were transparent to all and not matters of different interpretations.

My guess is that players pray for a lot of different things, and they may not always be consistent with Mr. Rote's or Mr. Tucker's ideas of theological correctness. But Mr. Tucker's rah-rah piece was obviously not meant to educate or inform. It was more like a synoptic infomercial for conservative evangelicalism, which is consistent with other stories he's done for broadcast news (he previously produced subject-promotional stories on a faith-based home schoolers basketball tournament and a conservative Christian book convention). This is exactly why Mr. Tucker's story did not tell us much of anything new about why players pray and the different responses that people have to that. It was just too busy being a promotional ad for conservative groups (like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?) to be a serious piece of informative journalism.

It has been said that a critical element of ethical journalism is to report the news in such a way that viewers are not able to discern one's ideological positions. From what I have seen of Jamey Tucker's reports, I cannot say that I am unable to discern his theological bias; that bias becomes more apparent to me the more stories I see coming from him. That bias may help News 2 from falling victim to economic threats from conservative cross-sections of their viewing audience, but it does nothing to change the perceptions of Christians like me that New 2 religion reporting generally tells us little or nothing one cannot already learn from surfing evangelical websites and bulletin boards.

Religious Extremism Will Be Our Undoing

There is an interesting contrast between reports on this weekend's protests and riots in Beruit over Danish cartoons in Monday's editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both dailies provide richer descriptions of the dynamics behind the unrest than the pejorative propaganda circulated by some more partisan bloggers. So, bits of the descriptions are worth passing along here to gain some insight as the smoke clears.

According to the Times, while thousands of Muslims turned out to protest the cartoons of Muhammad, the entire group was not responsible for the burning of the Danish embassy:
[A] breakaway crowd surged toward a high-rise building that houses the Austrian and Danish Missions, chanting obscene anti-Danish slogans in Arabic and vandalizing cars, office buildings and a Maronite Catholic church nearby. Other protesters burned Danish flags and flags bearing images of the cross .... Lebanon's grand mufti, Muhammad Rashid Kabbani, denounced the violence, saying there were infiltrators among the protesters trying to "harm the stability of Lebanon." Muhammad Khalil, an Islamic teacher from Akkar, in northern Lebanon, and an organizer of the march, said: "The burning of buildings and the destruction of cars is unacceptable. This was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, but people who love God and Muhammad are becoming overwhelmed by their anger" .... But many Lebanese also spoke of unity, the memory of the 15-year sectarian civil war still fresh in many minds. At the [Lebanese Christian] counterdemonstration, a Christian woman who would give her name only as Rita and who lives near the Danish Mission said men leaving the demonstration had entered the bakery where she worked. "They were apologizing," she said, and saying, "'We didn't mean for this to be a violent demonstration. We only wanted to say that we stand behind the name of Muhammad. But we believe that we are all Lebanese together.'"
The Post indicates that there are profound religious fissures and tensions opened up across Lebanon that not even a common political identity can overcome. Even some Christians are taking up weapons and calling for a separate "Christian" nation:
The [interreligious] unity of [earlier] protests [unleashed with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which forced Syrian withdrawal] has since given way to political uncertainty, the perception of Syrian troublemaking and growing communal tension, particularly between Shiite Muslims, the country's largest single group whose leadership has remained pro-Syrian, and other religious communities. Around the corner from the smoldering Danish Embassy was a faded, torn poster that read: "Lebanese Christian + Lebanese Muslim = Lebanese." "We're defending our land, our cross and our religion," said a 27-year-old who gave his name as John. He stood with other Christian youths carrying sticks and iron bars in the nearby neighborhood of Jemazye. One of his friends, Nabil Hazboun, walked toward him. "If they want the return of the militias to Lebanon, we're ready for them to come back," he said. Down the street, Mahmoud Aitour, a 23-year-old Muslim, took a break from his job at a restaurant and smoked a cigarette. "These things shouldn't happen, but at the same time, you have to show respect for religion," he said. As he spoke, a firetruck barreled down the street, its sirens blaring. "There has to be respect," he said. "Without respect, you get this." Text messages circulated on cell phones throughout the day. "Brothers, 200 years of killing of innocent Christians by Muslims and irresponsible Christian leaders," one read. "We say no more!!!! Launch the 'Christian Nation of Lebanon.' It is NEVER going to end unless you prepare your weapons, organize, and claim your Christian independent territory, by force. Or die."
The rightwing bloggers here are all abuzz with comparisons of "violent Islam" and "peaceful Christianity." The first-hand reports in both of these stories defy those stereotypes. The threat to freedom of expression does not come from the sum of any one faith tradition. It comes from the religious extremists in all countries who do not understand the difference between protest and unjustifiable, violent insurrection. It is what comes when religious devotees from any tradition place their faith above basic human rights that span cultures irrespective of theological differences. For political opportunists to jump on this awful episode as validation of the truth of "our religion," amounts to demagoguery and it incites religious extremism at the fringes of the Christian tradition in America.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

New Orleans Residents By-pass Mayor Ray Nagin's Rebuilding Commission To Create A "Plan By Default"

In the contest between ambitious urban planners, the stingy and stodgy Bush administration, and New Orleans residents to rebuild the Crescent City, the residents seem to be winning so far as they get permission "case-by-case" to rebuild their homes in the formerly flooded neighborhoods.

Why "Medical Liability Reform" Is Code For "Absolute Deregulation"

E.J. Graff over at the renovated coffee house explains in very simple cost-benefit terms how "tort reform" gives corporations a ballpark idea ahead of time of what they will have to spend when they violate regs., like, for instance, when an employer allowed white factory workers to force black factory workers to use a "colored" restroom.

Capping rewards, according to Graff, also makes the cost of the risk that trial lawyers take too high; sounds like to me it essentially eliminates the competition. Beside SOTU claims to the contrary, medical liability reform seems to have very little to do with the actual practice of medicine.

Ain't No Sunshine For Us Pawns

Apologies to Bill Withers. The genesis of the whipped up alternative ethics bill--which did little to change the damaging influence of lobbyists over political campaigns--was a secret nonpublic meeting between Governor Phil Bredesen and legistlators. Sunshine Laws? Only darkness every day.

Oh There Goes Gravity

I've had my XM Satellite Radio now for over a year, and I have used it so much that it has paid for itself. Beside being able to listen to every game of all of my favorite baseball teams, the variety of music or news programs I can listen to simply blows "free radio" out of the water. I rarely even listen to "free radio" any more, but when I do it is painful. Listening to local rock stations is like listening to a broken record (I thought I didn't care for Pink Floyd before, but now thanks to 105.9 "The Rock's" ultra-saturation of the same songs, they make me ill, as does the John Boy and Billy morning show, which last week--during one of my rare tune-ins--waded into the semantic nonsense involved in defending the difference between "domestic" and "international" calls in the White House wire-tap controversy. If I want to suffer through that tripe I can just tune into "America Right" on my XM). So, I'm basically locked into XM now, and I cannot imagine a world without it.

XM's only weakness is in its "TuneSelect" feature, which lets the listener store 20 artists (or songs); when one of them cues up on any XM station, the receiver prompts the listener to jump to that station. The TuneSelect feature is outstanding if there is a little-known blues song by some obscure Texas artist, for instance, that you want to hear again, but 20 artists seems a low number. What is worse is that XM only seems to play a limited number of songs of certain tuneselected artists. For example, I tuneselected Eminem for the duration of 2 or 3 months and heard only 3 or 4 different songs, but I had to listen to "When I'm Gone" about 20x more than any of the others. The same is not true for some of the other artists I tuneselected, but when it comes to Eminem, I feel like I'm listening to "free radio's" signature redundancy.

That's not a deal killer for me. XM still rules my airwaves.

Metroblogging Rumor

The always resourceful Jackson Miller writes today of a rumor that Metroblogging may just be coming to Nashville. Metroblogging, which calls itself "the largest and fastest growing network of city-specific blogs on the Web," coordinates the efforts of clusters of regional bloggers in the form of hyper-local blogs called "Metblogs." It also provides a worldwide connection for hyper-local bloggers. Sounds great, and there's plenty of room for the expansion of hyper-local blogging in Nashville.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lowly Local Fox 17 News To Run Report On Nashville Gang Growth Ahead Of Big 3 News Stations

I could not believe my eyes last night when I saw a Fox 17 News commercial on a report on teenage gang growth in Nashville set to run on Monday during their 9:00 broadcast. For Pete's sake, it's about time some local mainstream news outlet started reporting on gangs in Nashville, even if it has to be the runt of the litter, Fox 17 News. Let's hope that the Fox affiliate brings some quality journalistic attention to this problem and that it will motivate NewsChannel 5 (CBS), Channel 4 News (NBC), and News 2 (ABC) to start their own proactive investigations. Let's hope it does not take some sensational, tragic event afterwards for the big boys to finally wake up and take notice, in spite of the laurels Emmy Awards they sit on.

North End's Buena Vista School Receives History Channel Grant

The new Tennessean reporter covering the North End neighborhoods, Chris Jones (who replaced Nancy Deville), had a story in yesterday's edition concerning a $10,000 grant awarded to fourth-graders at Buena Vista Enhanced Option Elementary School for studying the history of the school's community. Buena Vista School sits at the intersection of 9th Ave., N. and Garfield St.

Nosh Notes

I got word from News 2 this week:
  • John "Chappy" Chapman is opening a seafood restaurant in Nashville after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Chappy's had been located on the Gulf Coast for 20 years before Katrina. I actually ate at Chappy's a few years ago when I was in Long Beach, MS for a conference. It was good seafood, but you could just about walk out into the parking lot and cast into the surf to catch fresh seafood. With not a beach in sight, we'll see how Chappy's fares in Nashville.
  • Our personal-favorite Mexican food restaurant in Nashville, La Terraza, is in discussion with Sounds management (as part of their effort to increase minority business involvement) to have a food stand at the new ballpark should it meet with Council approval this week. Baseball is a good thing, but sucking down La Terraza's grilled alambres or camarones rancheros while watching baseball would come pretty nigh heaven.

Reason #652 Why You Cannot Beat Urban Living

My Jeep just passed 4 years of age and 20,000 miles.

Friday, February 03, 2006

BREAKING: Home Invasion In 12South Neighborhood

According to the 12South Neighborhood Association official e-mail list:
Last night at 12:30 AM there was a home invasion on the 1100 block of Montrose Avenue. The intruder may have been Hispanic and his face was wrapped like a mummy. He broke in and demanded money. The individual ran screaming from the home and is physically safe today. The police responded in what seemed like less than two minutes and surrounded the neighborhood. The police helicopter was searching the neighborhood within minutes. There were at least 6 police vehicles in response to the call.

BREAKING: North End Security Alert From The Police

I received an e-mail from the Central Precinct saying (with my own editing):
On Monday, January 30 at 7:45 PM 4 black males in a white 4WD vehicle pulled up to a man who was walking his dog near Madison St. and 5th Ave. N. in Germantown. The vehicle had tinted windows and a light around the license plate. 2 of the 4 got out. 1 of the 2 was 6'11” 5'11" tall, 150 lbs., with a light goatee. That individual demanded money while the other person, who was 5'7" tall and 120 lbs., watched.

The victim told them he didn’t have any money. They searched his pockets. The suspects appeared mad that he did not have any money, and they fired one gunshot into the air. All 4 suspects left in the suspect vehicle.

Neighbors should be on the look out for this vehicle. If anyone sees it, please call 862-8600. These subjects are armed and dangerous, so DO NOT approach them. Call the police. Try to obtain a tag number and clothing descriptions if they should happen to get out of the vehicle. Again, do not try to contact them as they are more than likely armed. If you see a gun on them, call 911.
Also, the Central Precinct reports that they have increased enforcement in the North End in the past several weeks due to the ongoing apparent feud between two "low level" rival street gangs. They write that this situation, including the graffiti, is of "utmost concern" to them. They ask neighbors to let them know of any suspicious activity, including any subjects in the "area involved" (that would include most of Salemtown, but especially the blocks from 5th Ave. on the east to 7th Ave. on the west and from Garfield St. on the south to Buchanan St. on the north), where a lot of bandanas or where "certain colors" seem to be the dominant trait of the entire group.

CORRECTION: The height of the first suspect is 5'11".

With $4.95 Million Riding On Their Wager, Did You Really Think The Lobbyists Were Going To Sit By Lose?

Lobbyists around the state house are denying any influence over a Republican "alternative" ethics bill--supported by Democrats in the House and Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen (who all but scoffed to a reporter on the recent Nissan relocation that making deals is more important than having ideals)--that would gut the original ethics bill's intention to limit the ability of lobbyists to pay off legislators in return for favorable votes. They can deny to their hearts content, but the Tennessean obtained a "list of concerns" of the lobbyists. It's on there. At least one legislator says that lobbyists approached him about the issue. Lobbyists with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry sent off a newsletter to its 2,000 members urging business leaders to contact legislators on the matter. But even without the Tennessean's evidence, it doesn't take much to connect the dots between truckloads of lobbyists' money and their influence over a Republican-initiated and Blue-Dog-Democrat-supported bill designed to kill ethics reform and make the state safe for unfettered private profits.

But how does the Republican sponsor justify the killing? By the ridiculous charge that, since lobbyist groups would have to hire a person to monitor and to assure ethical behavior, they would be paying a "hidden tax." Cry me a river of tears. God forbid that they take some of the money to pay monitors from that $4.95 million per year that they dump into legislators' laps. Call it a tax if you like; I'd call it a small price to pay for ethical business leadership. I guess the lobbyists believe that ethical conduct just costs too much money; it doesn't make good business sense.

But given their overeager profit motives, might the shadier lobbyists be most concerned that hiring ethics monitors might cost them even more money when they have to bribe those officials to look the other way? That would amount to "double-secret-taxation."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Donelson's Lakeridge Association Meeting Canceled Due To Hate Flyers

The Lakeridge Run neighborhood association leadership canceled tonight's meeting after some residents found flyers in their mail boxes advertising the meeting and including the phrase:
Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Africans, Jews, Gays not wanted in the Lakeridge Homeowners Association.

"Christian" Hypocrisy Gores Someone Else's Sacred Cow While Shielding Its Own Golden Calves

Some have a lot of nerve. There's been a lot of whining about how Jesus and a priest were portrayed in the television show, Book of Daniel (which NBC cancelled in response to complaints and low ratings), joined with plaintive cries to portray Christians in a "positive" light. You'd think that conservative Christians would be sympathetic and circumspect when other religious zealots complain about outside depictions of their sacred cows. But no more than a few days after they moaned about their mistreatment, some of the more vocal conservative Christians express nothing but support for caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed despite the sacrilege that is for some Muslims.

And yet the "faithful" complain about being portrayed as hypocrites. Sakes alive.

Give "Cliff's Urban Nashville" A Look

This cool new site is worth a look or two or three. I was privileged to be among his first visitors, because it looks like an outstanding resource. Cliff, a public policy analyst who teaches at Vanderbilt, provides us this service because, as he writes, "there is no one definitive map available of Nashville's neighborhoods that includes all of the urban communities." Besides the helpful maps, he also is planning on posting links and photos of urban Nashville. I have also added Cliff's link to Enclave's "Links for the Neighborhoods" box in the right-hand column for your future reference.

Barista Shows That A Licorice G String Can Actually Be Knitted With Chopsticks

Okay. I admit that this would definitely take my mind of the S-bowl, but then again, the S-bowl is merely my warm-up for baseball's Spring Training. Still ... there's a lot of Spring Training to enjoy before summer gets here ... I could be distracted for a while and still not miss too much. Just one more thing to love about baseball.

Private Property Owners Remove More Graffiti From Structures

This private property at the corner of Garfield and 6th was hit with gang-related graffiti about two weeks ago from two rival gangs. As of today the graffiti has been removed from it and another house near the inter-section. Usually, private property owners, especially those who do not live in the neighborhood, take much longer than developers or Metro to remove such graffiti, but the owner of this house has removed it quickly. Hence, just about all of the vandalism that occurred at Garfield and 6th has been repaired. I am sure that most Salemtown residents are no doubt grateful to all who play a part in responding to the recent rash of vandalism.

My Heart Just Won't Bleed

As a dog-owner who obeys dog-control and leash laws so that my mutt does not impose herself on others, thusly straining neighborhood goodwill, I cannot have any sympathy whatsoever for residents of East Nashville who are reportedly upset with Animal Control for capturing their dogs after owners seem to be letting them roam free in their neighborhoods. I say just pay your fine and control your dog next time.

When my oldest daughter was a pre-schooler, we were on a stroll down a Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood street. All of a sudden, two black labs came charging from a house and into the street, barking and snarling at us. I tried to keep myself between the two labs who were circling us and my sobbing oldest, which was not easy. The owner, who was standing at her open door after letting them out, called out to us that we shouldn't be afraid and that her dogs were "really friendly." I shot her a look, and if looks were knives she would have been cut in two. I held my tongue, because if I let it loose I would have hurled all manner of invective and curse at the dog owner, and frankly my girl had already been exposed to enough trauma that day; she didn't need to hear salty language from her father, as well. The owner called her dogs back. From that point on, I carried pepper spray on all our walks. Since that time I have up my mind that you other dog owners need to comprehend that I don't care how lovable and behaved your dogs are to you, your right to let your dogs be free ends at other people's right not to feel threatened by your perfect pooches because of your failure to be responsible.

The problem with problem dogs is not the dogs but the owners. If it takes Animal Control citing owners and hauling off their dogs to force them to be responsible, so be it. My heart won't break.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State's Rights

The hole in the President's SOTU speech--which was big enough to drive a streetcar named "Desire" through--was his omission of any long-term initiatives for Gulf Coast recovery. He did mention Katrina survivors as a segue to the rate of HIV among African Americans (?!), and at the Grand Old Opry today he mentioned the Gulf Coast while referencing private charity toward evacuees. Other than that, any bright ideas he might have for recovery were not divulged.

No new ideas to re-populate the largest and busiest American port. No plans for the state that supports 80% of the oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing substantive mentioned to reclaim the country's economic backbone for the sake of property owners driven out by Katrina.

In the absence of any presidential leadership on this matter, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco seems to be stepping up to fight for her state's rights to more than just 27% of oil royalties (the federal government currently enjoys the lion's share of those royalties). According to nola.com, Ms. Blanco is refusing to sign any off-shore lease sales for oil exploration in the Gulf until Louisiana is assured of half of the royalties on any oil found there in order to pay for hurricane protection and coastal restoration that is not forthcoming from the federal government. Given Bush's willingness to commit a measly 6 more billion dollars for aid, excepting residents who live in flood prone areas, nola.com reports that the fight over oil royalties looks to get locked down in court for awhile. In the meantime, another hurricane season approaches.

I Believe Someone Said Something About Fetch?

Nearly All Bush, All Lunchtime

The White House achieved nearly total local television market saturation by having the President's Grand Ole Opry speech televised on the WSMV (NBC affiliate), NewsChannel 5 and their cable 5+ station (ABC affiliate), the 2 Fox stations (local Channel 17 and cable's Fox News), MSNBC (cable), and CNN (cable). The only local station not televising the speech live was Channel 2, which interrupted programming momentarily to announce the President's speech, before returning to its regularly scheduled and popular soap opera, "All My Children."

While I'm not a fan of soap operas and whatever the story line on "All My Children," it had to be better than the "soap opry" in Donelson, where Mr. Bush gave his standard utopian call to conversion to a hand-picked audience, comparing himself once again to Reagan, Truman, Roosevelt, et al., and preaching that freedom inevitably leads to peace (a point which seems continuously strained by realities in Iraq and the West Bank). I was puzzled by NewsChannel 5 carrying the speech on both of its channels. Managers must have figured that Mr. Bush was going to get higher ratings than the regularly scheduled "Talk of the Town." No doubt.

Bush Tells Purcell, "Fill The Pot Holes."

When mentioning local dignitaries in his speech at the Grand Ole Opry today, President Bush offered Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell some unsolicited advice: "Fill the pot holes."

Was that an appeal for more government services from a conservative? Or was it just an outline for minimalist Metro leadership by one who tries to lead with bare minimum strategies?

Developer and Metro Quickly Respond To Neighbors' Calls To Remove Gang-Related Graffiti

Just a little less than two weeks after gang bangers vandalized private and public properties, a large portion of the graffiti has been removed from developing properties (here's a before photo) and public signs (another before photo). The response was due in large part to quick phone calls on the part of members of Salemtown Neighbors to various parties responsible for repairing vandalism. However, the developers deserve credit for not dragging their feet and Metro Public Works deserves a doff of the cap for responding to residents' phone calls without delay. From the looks of the traffic signs, they seem to have been completely replaced.