Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Republican Genius for Exploiting American Paranoia

In this time of GOP soul-searching, Neal Gabler traces the party's true roots back from Palin to Bush to Nixon to Joe McCarthy:
Reagan's sunny disposition and his willingness to compromise masked the McCarthyite elements of his appeal, but Reaganism as an electoral device was unique to Reagan and essentially died with the end of his presidency. McCarthyism, on the other hand, which could be deployed by anyone, thrived. McCarthyism was how Republicans won. George H.W. Bush used it to get himself elected, terrifying voters with Willie Horton. And his son, under the tutelage of strategist Karl Rove, not only got himself reelected by convincing voters that John Kerry was a coward and a liar and would hand the nation over to terrorists, which was pure McCarthyism, he governed by rousing McCarthyite resentments among his base.

Republicans continue to push the idea that this is a center-right country and that Americans have swooned for GOP anti-government posturing all these years, but the real electoral bait has been anger, recrimination and scapegoating. That's why John McCain kept describing Barack Obama as some sort of alien and why Palin, taking a page right out of the McCarthy playbook, kept pushing Obama's relationship with onetime radical William Ayers.

And that is also why the Republican Party, despite the recent failure of McCarthyism, is likely to keep moving rightward, appeasing its more extreme elements and stoking their grievances for some time to come. There may be assorted intellectuals and ideologues in the party, maybe even a few centrists, but there is no longer an intellectual or even ideological wing. The party belongs to McCarthy and his heirs -- Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Palin. It's in the genes.

If it keeps moving in that direction look for the national party to look more and more like the Tennessee GOP.

TNGOP Mouthpiece Jive Turkey

Mary Mancini pays Bill Hobbs his just deserts, but doesn't mention Mr. Hobb's recent hostility toward community organizations, in which he mischaracterized Obama as a "Daley machine operative" even though Harold Washington was Mayor of Chicago and Chicago's Alinskyite organizations have a history of opposition regardless of administrations.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Consumer war games over computer games means that the 2008 version of Christmas is here:

Almost makes me wish I could be a guitar hero.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Under God" Pastor is Dead; the 1950s Still Very Much Alive

The original Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was written in 1892 by a Baptist who also happened to be a Christian Socialist. The original did not include the words "under God" after "One nation." I prefer the original wording and intention of the Pledge when I recite it.

Fast forward to 1952, when a Presbyterian pastor DC lobbyied for the words "under God" to be written into law after "One nation" from his pulpit:
[He] delivered a sermon saying the pledge should acknowledge God in 1952 at Washington's New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, just blocks from the White House.

On Feb. 7, 1954, he delivered it again after learning that President Dwight Eisenhower would be at the church.

Congress inserted the words a few months later.
The Presbyterian pastor just died. It's too bad that the co-mingling of God and government--which leads to both oppression and idolatry--couldn't have died with him.

Iconoclasts in an Icon Saturated World

Being iconic doesn't carry the weight it used to. Icon is now just one more consumer choice among many (for those with the money) rather than a monumental or meaningful landmark. Perhaps computing played its own role in shrinking "icon" to the scale of a tiny character that merely functions as an switch to a technical program.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, that use of icon first appeared in 1982, and it really is nothing like the much older meaning of a small symbol or image, dating to 16th Century, intended to adorn. However, contemporary marketing also tends to dumb down and bleed out terms like "iconic."

A recent Wall Street Journal piece looks at the ways that developers cheat the meaning of icon as a "popularly recognized symbol of something larger than itself." Icons don't have to be great architecture, but they do have to be widely acknowledged and interpreted.  Developers remove the label from the public realm and they compress the time required for icons to become icons. In the development world iconic status is instant and claimed by anyone who can buy it. You can literally find an Icon in every city, and not because it is widely understood as enduring and larger than life. As a result of the reduction of icons, the rest of us now left to a look for new terms even if we must become iconoclastic and shatter meaningless images.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The True Spirit of Christmas

The real war on Christmas:  "savage" suburban shoppers rush a Wal-mart at its 5 a.m. opening like a pack of frenzied wildebeests and kill a store worker who couldn't clear their stampeding.  Wal-mart of course said that the safety and security of its customers is a top priority.

Aren't marketing and consumerism wonderful things?

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rehabilitated Borrowers Put in Limbo by Economic Crisis

Student loan borrowers who have previously defaulted and are looking for a second chance to reestablish their credibility will be out of luck in December. And there is no bailout for them.

In contrast, corporate CEOs who ran their companies into the ground are getting bailed out, and spending on luxury conferences and paying executive bonuses. They're getting indulgences to keep them out of credit purgatory.

How Did I Miss This One?

"Goodbye Georgie Bush" celebration broke out on Chicago's Michigan Avenue the night Barack Obama was declared President Elect.

End of the Ice Sculpture Age?

AIG won't be giving 7 of it's 60 executives bonuses this year to prove the bailworthiness of their failing company to taxpayers.  How inspiring.  If only they gave awards for doing a tiny fraction of the right thing.

And only 81% of offices are going to have holiday parties this year.  Ouch.  20% of all offices are making the supreme sacrifice.  I just hate this war on Christmas, don't you?

Burning a Hole in My Virtual Pocket

Alright, ya'll. I'm looking for suggestions. I have just received revenues from Enclave's Google ads and as usual I'm looking to donate the money to a worthy and legitimate cause that strengthens the neighborhoods in the North End. I had initially responded to a fundraising effort for a neighborhood kids football team, but the fundraiser fumbled the snap on that one. So, now I've got a couple of other ideas, but I thought I would throw it open to suggestions of readers.

Any ideas of worthy non-profits or charities in the North End that could use a $100 donation? Organizations receiving Enclave donations in the past two years include Nashville Jazz Workshop, Fisk University, and Friends of the Nashville Farmers Market. I intend to make a decision in the next few days, so if you have ideas let me know sooner rather than later.

Tin Men

The area scrap metal tycoons blame the state law designed to prevent thieves from ripping out your HVAC unit and stripping the copper from it for the downturn in their sales. So, I guess we'll be seeing concerted efforts by the "Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc." to lobby against consumer protection in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Tennessean Perpetuates the After Hours Myths

Jennifer Brooks conveys the myths:
  1. That ending alcohol in after hours clubs will end the music ("The after-hours crowd can't envision a Music City where the music stops at 3 a.m.")
  2. That the lack of after hours clubs means that people cannot drink or be with other friends after 3 a.m. ("The clubs, they say, are a dead-of-night melting pot, where club kids rub elbows with factory workers and bartenders coming off shift.")
  3. That Metro's regulation of after hours clubs is coordinated and consistent as it leap frogs surgical control of some clubs in order to impose on all clubs ("The after-hours crackdown, he said, unfairly targets every club in town, rather than the ones responsible for the bulk of the police calls.")

Now let's bust up the myths:

If music stops after 3 a.m. it won't be for a lack of alcohol, it will be because people don't appreciate music enough. People are not sheep who require after hours clubs to shepherd them to alcohol and music. Give them some credit.

And give Metro a lot less credit. Council members are simply trying to patch holes in the absence of a coordinated and consistent effort by Mayor Dean's administration against the worst after hours clubs, which probably make at least as much money as the responsible ones. If a neighbor finding hookers and used condoms on their place the morning after after hours affected someone's profit margin, you can bet that the Courthouse bureaucrats would have made surgical strikes to close the worst clubs as the club owners in the Tennessean article wish.

But then again, why aren't the responsible after hours clubs owners working with neighborhood groups to police and close down the bad clubs? Maybe their posturing is not entirely honest, and perhaps they actually have a vested interest in the bad boys staying open.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CRIME ALERT: Home Invasion, Robbery, & Kidnapping in Belle Meade Area

Via CM Emily Evans's blog:
West Precinct detectives continue in their efforts to identify the five masked gunmen responsible for robbing and kidnapping three persons from a home in the 4000 block of Harding Place between 9 p.m.-9:15 p.m. Sunday night.

The five suspects entered through an unlocked front door. The 48-year-old homeowner, who was in the living room, thought it was a joke and pushed away a gun that was pointed at him. That prompted one of the suspects to fire a shot into a piece of furniture. The suspects robbed the victims of computer equipment and money. They then forced the homeowner, his 19-year-old daughter, and her 19-year-old boyfriend into the homeowner’s Toyota Highlander SUV. Three of the suspects also got into that vehicle while the two others followed in a silver Buick Century.

The victims were taken to two ATMs in the Green Hills area from where the suspects withdrew money. They were released unharmed in a subdivision near Hillsboro High School. They walked to a residence from where police were called at 9:26 p.m. Sunday.

The silver Buick was recovered nearby. It had been reported stolen from the Edgehill area.

The Toyota Highlander has not been recovered. It is a red 2006 model and bears Tennessee license plate number 453-SJN.

The five suspects are described as black males in their late teens. At this point in the investigation, detectives do not know why this particular home was chosen.
Anyone with information on this case is urged to contact the West Precinct at 862-7747 or Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and qualify for a cash reward.

When the Smartest Bloggers Make the Dumbest Arguments

I generally give Roger Abramson's arguments credence, but not this time; this is so far beneath him that it is inexumable.

Seriously.  I have to be a "noted local economist" to blog my opinion on this bailout economy?  Do I also have to be a criminologist to blog my opinion on crime?  Do I have to be a Mayor to comment on the Mayor's office?  Or what about a chef or food critic to recommend a restaurant on Enclave? Maybe I need to go to law school to express my views on public policy.

Speaking of law, unless I am mistaken, Roger is a lawyer, which by his own logic doesn't make him a "noted local economist," even though he does exactly the same thing he's criticizing me for: blog on economics.

Seriously.  Roger looks here like he can't produce a coherent defense himself on why I am wrong in linking a view with which he disagrees.  So, he attacks the fact that I'm not an economist, something I've never claimed or pretended to be; even as I have opinions on the economy, just like Roger does.

Troublesome Salemtown Market Has Beer License Suspended

On the heels of another neighborhood association meeting filled with residential complaints about continuing problems at a beer market at 7th and Garfield, Salemtown Neighbors President Freddie O'Connell followed up with Council Member Erica Gilmore, School Board Member Sharon Gentry (minors loiter by the store during school hours), Metro Police, and Beer Board Member Jackie Eslick.

Ms. Eslick was the first to respond to Freddie with some positive news:
inspectors got direct evidence of drinking on the premises, which is prohibited. As a result, Volcano Discount Tobacco (the new operating name for K&M Market) has had its beer license suspended for 14 days effective Dec. 1st. Weakening their case, the owner of the market did not respond to a subpoena to come before the board to represent himself.
This property is owned by well-placed Nashvillian Kenny Norman, and the store seemed to be the subject of a recent Tennessean article that suggested it is the focus of frivolous, race-based phone calls to the police. Tennessean reporter and Germantown resident Janell Ross interviewed a man outside the market who told her that police had been called against him because he was black and merely talking about the weather and politics while standing outside the market.  Maybe Ms. Ross can make amends by doing a follow-up on how law-breaking public consumption on the premises translates to innocent conversations about the weather and politics.

Police reported to SNNA last night that the market operator was arrested two weeks ago for reckless endangerment after he shot a gun at his own bulletproof glass while customers were in the store just to see if it would work. The officer also told neighbors that the Women's Rescue Mission around the corner on Rosa Parks Boulevard does not help the situation since many of the women staying that the mission have been involved already with alcohol, drugs, and prostitution, and the recidivism rate among the mission's population is probably high.

Salemtown truly needs Ms. Gilmore, Ms. Gentry, the police, and Ms. Eslick to work together to change the poor conditions at 7th and Garfield.  I don't know how much influence property owner Kenny Norman has in keeping conditions as they are in Salemtown, but Metro officials have to do more for the sake of the community.  Also, neighors need to keep in mind that the Women's Mission owns several vacant lots on 7th behind their mission and across the street from the market.  There has been talk of plans to expand the mission in the future.  That is a prospect to which we should strenuously object, given the current conditions.

Bush Wiretapping Bears Its Strange Fruit

Oh, NO! The Bush Administration's warrantless wiretappers would NEVER listen in on private phone conversations of innocent people. They would NEVER use AT&T to go all J. Edgar Hoover on people whose only crime was making personal phone calls having nothing to do with terrorism. We can ALWAYS rely on abolute power not to corrupt absolutely.

So, what's the harm in allowing warrantless wiretaps and encouraging AT&T to report their customers to the federal government?  You must hate the homeland if you love civil liberties, you pinko commies.

All Crafton All the Time

The reporter at the local Crafton sounding board once again fails to ask important critical questions after a typical string of guttural Crafton gigs at an innocent individual:
Crafton also sounded off on the Honduran refugee who filed the complaint. Quinteros’s attorney David Randolph Smith filed a brief Monday detailing his client’s standing in the case. The brief lists Quinteros as a Honduran refugee, who works in a warehouse and has a child in Metro schools ....

“It’s a slap in my face and it should be in every other citizen and taxpayer that the person filing this lawsuit is a refugee from [Honduras] that basically was under persecution and we opened our arms and welcomed her,” Crafton said. “And then one of the first things she does is file a lawsuit to prohibit citizens from this country from having a right to vote.

“I don’t like that at all and I don’t think most people would. She alleges this would be hard for her to communicate, yet she knows enough about our constitution that she knows what unconstitutional is. She knows enough she can hire an attorney and file a complaint.”
You would think that the journalistic thing to do would be to point out that Mr. Crafton has enjoyed his entire existence here on earth under the brooding wing of a liberal democracy and with the privileges thereof, and to remind him that he himself retained a lawyer and repaid (using his own logic) the country of his birth by bringing a lawsuit against Metro to advance his own personal ambitions at taxpayer expense.

Instead of letting Crafton run off at the mouth unchallenged why can't professionals in the media follow up with questions like, "Mr. Crafton, why would you--being an American by birth, not by choice--begrudge a legal immigrant--who chose to live here over all others--for petitioning the courts when you yourself petitioned the courts and continue to defend yourself with a hired lawyer? How is begrudging her in the exercise of her inalienable right to file grievances not the height of hypocrisy and bigotry against immigrants?  What makes you better than her?"

I don't understand why these are such difficult questions to form and to fire.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Can of Whoop-ass Called the Citigroup Bailout

No two ways about it.  We got screwed on the latest bank bailout, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman:
A bailout was necessary — but this bailout is an outrage: a lousy deal for the taxpayers, no accountability for management, and just to make things perfect, quite possibly inadequate, so that Citi will be back for more.

Amazing how much damage the lame ducks can do in the time remaining.
I'm sure the Treasury opened this can on us because we just don't wish enough people a "Merry Christmas" any more.

Is it just me or is the Bush Treasury responding to the total economic meltdown in much the same fashion that Bush's FEMA responded to total destruction of Hurricane Katrina?

She Does It for the Children, You Know

Every time an elected official chooses to send their kid to private school one-time unelected official Kay Brooks starts beating her tom-tom for school "choice" (which is just another term for publically subsidizing and/or bailing out the private school industry).  She has this penchant for using other people's kids (unless they're Republicans) as weapons against them, and she behaves no differently now that the President Elect and our new First Lady have chosen to send their kids to Sidwell Friends (a.k.a, Quaker) School when they move to Washington DC:
NO ONE should criticize their decision. But it's OK to hamper the efforts of poor families in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington DC and Nashville, TN to use vouchers and charters in order to raise and nurture their children as they determine is best for them.
It's always heartwarming for me to see Republicans pose all "compassionate conservative" and speak up for poor people as a means to the end of getting government money funded for their pet projects.

But when it comes to other people's children, Kay Brooks shows again that she's blinded by her own partisan goals. Poor families in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington DC and Nashville don't have to think about shielding their kids from the invasive and probing glare of the ruthless corporate media (or about accommodating the Secret Service). According to Jill Tubman over at Jack & Jill Politics, who is also a Sidwell Friends alum, it would be difficult for even the best public schools in the country to provide the same cocoon against tabloid journalism that Sidwell does. Tubman also seems to indicate that vouchers would not make as much of a difference as Sidwell is more competitive academically than it is driven by a family's ability to pay for the education.

In the end, those arguments don't matter as much as the question, "Why can't Kay Brooks leave other people's kids out of her attacks?"

Many Memphis Obama Supporters Crossed over to Vote for Republican Alexander

Thus says the Commercial Appeal.  And outside of Shelby and Davidson, McCain garnered 62% of Tennesseans' votes.  Without Memphis or Nashville, Tennessee would be more deeply mired in the mistakes of the past.

Tamp Down Camelot

Franklin Delano Obama is infinitely more preferable than Obamalot.  However, Obama's recent selections suggest a shift that may not be so bold.  (Sidenote from the "Where's the frackin' liberal media?" department:  can someone explain to me how center-right appointments so obviously indicate that Obama is surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues, but center-left appointments would not?  It would seem to me that there are pragmatists on both sides of the ideological divide, and what puts center-right Clintonistas on the right is their fidelity to ideology, not pragmatism per se).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bush Sleeper Cells

Bushies have been burrowing into career government positions for the past 8 years.  If the Bushies hate goverment so much, why are they making a career of it?

UPDATE:  Mike Licht prognosticates:
In prior administrations, many political appointees were actually capable of doing the work they were paid for, so absorption into the merit system civil service made sense. The prime (and often sole) qualification of Bush bureaucrats was ideological purity; Job One was destruction of the agencies in which they were posted, so the actual work could be farmed out to the corporations of plutocrat pals.

We normally subscribe to the adage ”Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” While stupidity is certainly an inexhaustible resource, eight years of data indicate the outrageous inefficiency and departmental destruction inflicted by Bush “Schedule C” appointees has been purposive behavior. “Burrowing” is an attempt to extend this losing legacy into the Obama years.

Racial Competition

Eric Oliver considers the Bigot Belt:
Racially isolated whites in Arkansas or Alabama may have been more afraid of voting for Obama not because they are more racist than white voters in Minnesota or Montana, but because they perceive greater racial competition with nearby black populations.
Is Tennessee the buckle?

Run Government Like a Business?

And run it into the ground like the financial wizards did at Citibank:
Normally, a big bank would never allow the word of just one executive to carry so much weight. Instead, it would have its risk managers aggressively look over any shoulder and guard against trading or lending excesses.

But many Citigroup insiders say the bank’s risk managers never investigated deeply enough. Because of longstanding ties that clouded their judgment, the very people charged with overseeing deal makers eager to increase short-term earnings — and executives’ multimillion-dollar bonuses — failed to rein them in, these insiders say.

Today, Citigroup, once the nation’s largest and mightiest financial institution, has been brought to its knees by more than $65 billion in losses, write-downs for troubled assets and charges to account for future losses ....

Waves of layoffs have accompanied that slide, with about 75,000 jobs already gone or set to disappear from a work force that numbered about 375,000 a year ago ....

While much of the damage inflicted on Citigroup and the broader economy was caused by errant, high-octane trading and lax oversight, critics say, blame also reaches into the highest levels at the bank.
Oh, yeah. Those are the kinds of people we need in charge in Washington. Oh, wait they have been in control under the Bush Administration. Those are the people we need out of power.

Unfortunately, it looks like President Elect Barack Obama is relying on at least one of the Citigroup wizards as a "key economic advisor," who moves seamlessly between Wall Street and Washington and doesn't seem to think he made any mistakes at Citigroup.  Change or more of the same?

UPDATE: In terms of greatest potential benefit, Robert Reich asks a good question about Citigroup's bailworthiness:
So why save Citi and not GM? It's not at all clear. In fact, there may be more reason to do the reverse. GM has a far greater impact on jobs and communities. Add parts suppliers and their employees, and the number of middle-class and blue-collar jobs dependent on GM is many multiples that of Citi. And the potential social costs of GM's demise, or even major shrinkage, is much larger than Citi's -- including everything from unemployment insurance to lost tax revenues to families suddenly without health insurance to entire communities whose infrastructure and housing may become nearly worthless.

They can't be suffering very much

For others a football jersey and a logo haircut are enough respite from the recession.  No long food lines or interest rate relief needed.  Economic crisis?  Forget about it.  All you need is some wins and an image consultant.

Financial Situation of Charities is "Brittle and Delicate"

The economic crisis hits non-profit charities, which are considering slashing programs for needy people during a time of profound need.

5,000 Line Up for Food Giveaway in LA

Demand for free food surges and includes struggling middle class families.  Food giveaway was not even well publicized.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crafton's Lawyer is Playing with Fire in Personal Attacks on Immigrant

Eric Crafton commenting less on English Only is actually good for English Only because when he opens his mouth on politics and culture he tends to polarize and piss off.

So, maybe it was better that Crafton's lawyer spoke on his behalf. Or was it?

First of all he accuses an immigrant who is suing Metro to stop the January 22 ballot initiative (early voting starts January 2) of attempting to take away "the people's" right abolish Metro government or direct it as they see fit.

But if we assume that the El Salvadorian plaintiff in this case is actually one of "the people," Crafton's lawyer does not seem too keen on her right to level her grievances against this Metropolitan government:
[Crafton's attorney] said he suspects Quinteros is a political puppet being used by opponents of the English-only measure who fear that they cannot defeat it at the ballot box. The move will backfire, he said.

"I think there is going to be some backlash at immigrants for this," he said. "Here's a woman to whom we've stretched out our hand, and she's kicked us in the shins."
Implied in this personal attack are 3 significant threats:
  • A double standard that recognizes Crafton's people's right to abolish or change government, but ignores the right of other people to do the same.
  • A denigration of immigrants as independent moral agents who can exercise their inalienable rights just like others and an attack on their dignity by calling them "tools" of someone else.
  • The insinuation (and incitement?) of some sort of collective backlash by non-immigrant Middle Tennesseans against our immigrant communities.
That third threat to immigrants is particularly abhorrent given that it plays on ingrained prejudices and inflames bigotry already boiling.  Eric Crafton and his legal team apparently intend to make this case mean, nasty, brutish, and short.  They don't look like they might eschew using intimidation to leverage English Only.

Friday, November 21, 2008

But I hate math and I play as hard as I work

However, I am bound to point out that there is a grammatical error in this analysis of me in light of this blog:
ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

English Only as a Test Case for Claims of a Competitive and Growing "New South"

Chris Kromm raises some important arguments against the northeast-dominated corporate media's spin on election results in the South.  We should not deny the possibility that states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida represent a significant, if not sustained sea change in conventional interpretations of the conservative, Republican leanings of this region.  And besides, the fickle media elite may just be in denial of their own embeddedness with Bush Republicans during most of the first decade of the 21st Century.

Kromm does not really confront the deepest red southern states (like Tennessee; he only touches on Alabama) in his post.  Despite Kromm's inattentiveness to Tennessee, it is in places like Nashville (even more so than Memphis, which fits into the blue swath of counties that line up south down the Mississippi River to Vicksburg and Jackson, forming the end of "majority-minority" counties that stretch across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia) where the claims of the competitiveness of liberal ideas will be tested, and right soon.

Metro Nashville is a blue urban island, voting 60% for Barack Obama, rising out of a wide conservative sea of suburban, exurban, and rural red counties.  If Democrats cannot rise up to fight regressive policies like the Metro charter change referendum that would force Metro employees to provide services only in one language, we would have to call it a strike against Kromm's thesis about a "New South" tipping point.  It would not be insignificant because a New South requires progressive victories in its most remote urban outposts.  And we should also be concerned about Kromm's thesis that the South is gaining more clout even as one of its powerful metropolitan areas supports bigoted policies like English Only.

Kromm's analysis of the political arena in the South is limited by his strict focus on the parties rather than trans-party ideological clusters (conservative, moderate, liberal), so any Democratic control or win for him looks progressive.  As I have argued, it is a mistake and a misunderstanding of arenas like Tennessee, where Democrats are frankly and generally not progressive (there are a few exceptions), to stress party affiliation strongly.  When the Democrats look Republican-lite, what difference does it make that a southern state would be in play for Democrats?  I believe that Kromm also focuses on party politics to the exclusion of the role that community-based organizing (which claims in many cases to be "nonpartisan") has played in electoral politics, especially in 2008.  A different but relevant question is:  have community organizations, which have been growing nationwide for the last 50 years, made Obama's viability possible or has Obama been the catalyst of their greater influence in this election?

While the debate over various interpretations of the November elections will continue, we need to pay close attention now to local initiatives like English Only as significant indicators of whether the conservative, Republican coalition's stranglehold on the South is loosening.  If white Davidson County voters reject English Only or only support it by a small margin, then we may have grounds to speak of a New South "rising."  But Kromm is correct in maintaining that referring to the South synonymously with whites is not only erroneous, but racist.  We have a pretty good idea of how Davidson County Latinos will vote (and the Kurdish community?).  However, Chris Kromm makes the questionable claim that increasing numbers of mobilized African Americans and Latinos in the South represent new opportunities for Democrats and, by implication, progressives.

While African Americans generally have more positive attitudes about immigrants than whites, they also express greater anxiety, alienation, and competition with immigrants.  While a coalition between African Americans and Latinos may be logical, it is not a given in a deep blue county, and I continue to maintain that English Only will pass or fail on African American votes; that is, I believe it will fail if African American Nashvillians overwhelmingly reject it (if African Americans overwhelmingly support it and it fails or reject it and it passes, I will eat humble pie and concede that I was wrong).  Hence, if English Only in Nashville passes in January (assuming an election is not disqualified by a court) it will weaken Chris Kromm's hypothesis of a New South "rising," at least until the Davidson County immigrant community grows larger in few years.

Suit Filed Against English Only Referendum

Attorney representing El Salvadorian immigrant will argue that the ballot initiative if passed in January would violate his client's freedom of speech and freedom to petition the government.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I wonder if he misses Rummy?

Did you notice that Metro Council has one member who lists as one of his past military experiences "Contractor" in Iraq in 2004?

Given the generally checkered reputation of military contractors for fraud and waste in Iraq under the Bush Administration, I would say that it takes chutzpa to self-identify as a contractor:

Further Evidence that the Editorial Voice of the WSJ is Nuts

When the implosion of the American economy is blamed on the "war on Christmas," the culture warriors have nothing left in the tank:

You got that? Mortgage lenders engaged in questionable lending practices because they could no longer wish people, "Merry Christmas." AIG backed up dubious loans and sent their executives to expensive resort- and spa-based conferences riding first class or on company luxury jets because they could no longer wish people, "Merry Christmas." GM made some stupid purchases of foreign car companies with they were raking in huge profits instead of investing in green technologies of the 21st Century because they could no longer wish people, "Merry Christmas." The federal government deregulated instead of defending the welfare of Americans because we could no longer wish people, "Merry Christmas." And no one misbehaved when wishing "Merry Christmas" was popular.

It all makes sense to me now. Why couldn't I see the connection earlier? Probably because I'm not nearly as wacked out as the opinion editors at the Wall Street Journal.

Don't Look to SMU

Over at the Texas Observer, Paul Begala suggests we just look around us for the monument to George W. Bush:
This is the monument to Bush-style conservatives. They are its architects. Look around you. See what the Bush-conservative philosophy has done to the country we love. The sooner we take a wrecking ball to that monument the better.

UPDATE: Another monument to Bush (via ThinkProgress):

By the way, if you Google Bush + bully today, you get over 6.2 million hits.

Three Council Members with Hearts Two Sizes Too Small

Tennessee law prohibits local governments from taking any action with respect to the mortgage lending industry, even in these times of woe and want. So, on Tuesday, Metro CM Lonell Matthews sponsored a memorializing resolution on behalf of some struggling Nashvillians to ask the Nashville delegation to the General Assembly to introduce and support legislation that would require 90-day written notice to homeowners before lenders could start foreclosure proceedings.

Upon introduction, CM Jim Hodge asserted that he wanted to be recorded as voting against the resolution, which required a roll call vote to be registered (memorializing resolutions, which have all the teeth of a newborn baby, generally sail through without roll call votes). Joining Hodge against Matthew's successful resolution in the roll call were Robert Duvall and Randy Foster.

I'll be interested to see what future legislation these three might support on behalf of Nashvillians who face mortgage crisis, even if that legislation is symbolic and limited by state law. Jim Hodge is listed as a principle real estate broker, which makes me think he should have asked to be recorded as abstaining from the vote altogether. Is it not in a broker's best interest to keep the foreclosure notice period as short as possible in order to maximize the sale of real estate?

There is a lot of money to be made in the foreclosure industry, in putting families on the street, from coast ...

... to coast ...

Netroots against English Only

Hispanic Nashville has a great round-up of online opposition to CM Eric Crafton's expensive January ballot referendum to write bigotry into the Metro Charter.

UPDATE:  Enclave commenter Downtown Cliff has a helpful suggestion for the leaders of opposition to English Only:
Opponents need to create a clearing house for business community comments on how they would be unwilling or hesitant to invest in a market that embraces such divisive practices as an English only law. Some folks only respond to dollar signs.

Taking a $36 Million Luxury Jet to Beg Bail Out Capital from Congress

Another scathing report from ABCNews on corporate decadence under a veil of crisis management: CEOs of the big 3 automakers took $20,000 trips on luxury jets to ask Congress for bail out capital instead of flying coach for $500. The GM CEO has his choice of 8 corporate jets and the Ford CEO's wife can use a jet as well.

ABCNews also followed up on AIG, which has its own fleet of luxury jets. Here is the more in depth local report on AIG's latest luxury resort conference that Brian Ross drew upon the other day:

I wonder why AIG canceled that appearance by celebrity Terry Bradshaw? Because it would bring too much attention to a conference that might hurt their reputation? And I'm sure Mr. Bradshaw appreciates the fact that he's going to get paid for doing absolutely nothing. Nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can't Even Buy Groceries

Chris Wage reminds us that--even before the Wall Street crash and recession--the inability of tens of millions of Americans (NOT including homeless) to buy groceries had been growing for two years.  In a few months, I'm sure we'll be finding out that poorer families have been suffering more than anyone right now.

Poll on Religion and Politics Defies Conventional Wisdom

A new poll out conducted by Public Religion Research is bad news for those 6 of 10 Republicans who believe that the solution to their historic losses 2 weeks ago is to become more partisan and more conservative.

Polled Protestant and Catholic adherents, whom the GOP claims to intend to represent, prefer to seek a common middle ground between political factions:
Evangelical, Catholic voters reject narrow political focus, embrace the common good. Large majorities of Catholics (72%) and white evangelicals (81%) say people of faith should focus on all issues that are central to their values even if it makes them less effective in politics, rather than focusing on one or two issues in order to be more politically effective. Strong majorities of Catholics (71%) and evangelicals (62%) also believe people of faith should advocate for policies that “protect the interests of all and promote the common good,” rather than policies that “protect their values and way of life.”
Focus in larger ways that may make them less effective. That's not good for Republicans, who are already ineffective.

Religious adherents also blame the greed of institutions and the lack of government oversight:
All religious groups rank economy as top issue, blame institutions rather than individuals for economic crisis. When asked to identify the first and second most important issue to their vote, 70% of voters say the economy, followed by Iraq (35%), health care (31%), terrorism (19%), abortion (14%) and same-sex marriage (6%). Asked who they think is responsible for the current economic crisis, a plurality (38%) say corporations who were greedy, nearly one-third (31%) say negligent government, and one-quarter (25%) say individuals who were careless.
That's not going to play well in the conventional conservative mindset that either denies or glorifies greed and lacks any commitment to government oversight and deterrence of corporate abuse.

Finally, significant numbers of faith-based voters are theologically comfortable with Obama (even if they did not vote for him), but Palin not so much:
Almost twice the number of white evangelicals who voted for Obama say he shares their values, is “friendly” to religion. Although only 21% of white evangelicals surveyed voted for Obama, nearly double that number say he is “friendly” to religion (39%) and shares their values (39%).

Obama significantly improves upon perceptions of Democratic Party’s “friendliness” to religion. Fifty-four percent of voters see Obama as friendly to religion, and a similar percentage see McCain as “friendly” to religion (58%). While McCain’s numbers are similar to those Pew found in August 2008 for Republican Party “friendliness” to religion (52%), Obama’s numbers represent a 16-point improvement over his party’s numbers (38%) and a 5-point increase from Faith in Public Life’s pre-election findings among the general public (49%).

Palin nomination resulted in net loss for GOP ticket. Palin’s nomination increased support among fewer than one-third of white evangelicals (30%), and decreased support among every other religious group and political independents. Among white evangelicals, a majority (54%) say her selection didn't affect their support for McCain, and an additional 14% say her selection made them less likely to support McCain.
Palin's effect on the ticket was relatively undramatic.  That won't help Palin's 2012 run against Obama.

Maybe evangelical Christians aren't as bad as I've been beating them up for being. Maybe there is a reason that theologically conservative companies are suffering a shortage of funding. Maybe that reason is a new trend toward moderation and progressiveness.  Maybe these "value voters" need to start shouting down those who self-appoint themselves their spokesmen because these poll results defy the spin out there about them.

Hey, You Kids: The Battle for the Presidency Was Waged Lawn-to-Lawn and Between By-Laws in One Williamson County Neighborhood

Below is an actual exchange between several different residents on a neighborhood listserv in Williamson County in October. The names have been erased because the names behind the comments are none of your dad-gummed business. Just enjoy the lively discussion:
  1. You may have noticed the latest sign we've resorted to adding to our yard.  Since we're now on our FOURTH Obama sign, we've felt the need to encourage the sign thief to think before they steal.  If you have any better ideas on how we might encourage people to leave our sign alone, please share!

  2. I have to tell you that we had a similar experience during the last presidential contest. Our Kerry/Edwards sign was mutilated almost nightly, though no one stole it.  Consequently, [we] still argue over placing an Obama sign in our yard.  I had hopes after seeing your sign up that things had changed, but I suppose that was wishful thinking. 

  3. Maybe it would be best if no one put a sign in their yard to begin with.  Isn't there something in the bylaws stating no advertising signs except for "house for sale"?  I am not going to vote for a someone just because someone put a sign in their front yard.  The neighborhood looks much nicer without all the roofing/gardening/ lawncare/political signage.  Plus if the kids are pulling pranks by pulling up the signs -maybe you could just make a straight out contribution to your political party?

  4. I maybe overlooked that language in our bylaws, architectural guidelines, etc on the no-sign rule but I think we should update it to include no "For Sale" signs as well…everyone just needs to stay put.  Really, I do not believe such language exists regarding signs unless you stretch the definition of "lawn adornments" -- which is somewhat feasible.

    I think a more thoughtful approach would be to reflect on the definition of "prank" [a trick of an amusing, playful, or sometimes malicious nature] and "theft" [the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny] and then cover this topic with our children around the dinner table tonight.

  5. They think it's just harmless fun, but you're right---stealing is stealing and it's the principle.  And chances are the fact that the Obama signs were stolen probably is a reflection of what they've heard in political discussions at home.  I would really hate to think that an adult removed those signs from the yards.

  6. I suspect kids aren't politically active enough to distinguish between the candidates. I move that all ... residents respectfully honor freedom of speech. Do I hear a second?

  7. I honor freedom of speech and do not appreciate you suggesting I don't.  I do not honor trashing up the neighborhood with signs in everyone's front yard.  We already have 6 or 7 houses for sale and people advertising their roofers, landscapers, whatever.  I am sure you won't find signs posted in Laurel Brook or Legends Ridge.  I personally do not care to know who you are voting for.

  8. Just a reminder that this Saturday, October 11th is the Wine and Cheese party at the clubhouse.  Please join us at 7:00pm and bring your favorite bottle of wine (or other drink of choice).  Come enjoy delicious appetizers and catch up with old neighbors and meet new ones!

  9. Should we wear our McCain or Obama t-shirts to the party?

Why the Incredible Shrinking Right Might Just Go on Losing

6 out of 10 Republicans say that the solution to losing is moving farther to the right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Downtown Noise Bill Deferred

Mike Jameson said tonight that he, the Noise Task Force, business leaders and the Downtown partnership are waiting on a lawyer to render a legal opinion regarding the attempt to place a decibel level on amplified music Downtown.

The Democratic Delegation of Masochists

U.S. Senate Democratic delegation allows Joe Lieberman to win again and reinforces the stereotype that Dems lack the grit to respond emphatically to belligerence.  If they cannot dish the big payback to a rogue member, then how will they but acquiesce to the tactics of the other party?  And exactly what kind of skills are the Dems keeping with Lieberman? As Chair of the Homeland Security committee, he never held a single investigation of the Bush Administration.

UPDATE:  Lieberman does a his victory dance with the press and says he looks forward to working with a man he previously compared to "Nazi appeasers," Barack Obama:

The Passive Voice Leaves Out Bredesen

In efforts to show how "tense" a Metro Council member made a Mayor's Office boss, the City Paper left out one significant detail having to do with the Democratic Governor red states love to love:
The $59 million were originally issued for projects related to what is now LP Field in the 1990s. The bonds were refinanced in 2006 during Mayor Bill Purcell’s administration.
The bonds didn't originally issue themselves. It would be former Mayor Phil Bredesen who should get all of the initial credit.

If Kicking off Restoration of Centennial Park is Indication that Capital is Now Available for Parks

Why can't the North End's lowly Morgan Park get the new playground it's been promised for going on 4 years now?  Unlike the West End, we're not asking Karl Dean for "marquee public spaces."  Just a simple space for our kids to play would be ample.  Why is that so much to ask?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't Be Hatin' on Fannie and Freddie for the Private Sector's Mistakes

Krugman says Fannie and Freddie have alibis at full bubble expansion:
Fannie/Freddie did some bad things, and did, it turns out, get to some extent into subprime. But thanks to the accounting scandals, they were actually withdrawing from the market during the height of the housing bubble — the vast majority of the loans now going bad came from the private sector.


Federally bailed-out AIG continues to have--more on the down-low now--swank resort-based executive meetings complete with cocktail parties and limos. But they want to assure taxpayers that those executives lined up in First Class ticket lines are really flying coach. Nothing to see here. Move along.

If Unions are the Cause of the Big 3's Decline, Then Why Are Companies without Unions in Tighter Financial Straits?

Think Progress tells the truth that the union-haters like to deny:
Financial firms AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns did not have unionized workers but still suffered economic collapses. Frozen credit markets and a spiraling recession were major contributors to Detroit’s current state.

UPDATE: Anemic percolation.

Kotz Drinkanistas vs. Urban Neighborhoods

Not only is PiTW's Pete Kotz guilty of speaking in vague generalities about how cities become vibrant sphincter-free epicenters without reference to their actual codes (ever heard of NYC's Paradise Garage, Pete?), not only does he mention Austin, Texas without reference to Austin's decibel restriction on amplified music (which might soon be Nashville's), but like so many other lifestyle les misérables Pete puts on a persecution complex to propose the preposterous point that his liberty is somehow maligned by limits on after-hours clubs. (Full disclosure: I've been to a few after-hours clubs in my time).

Pete refers to his preference for after-hours clubs as "freedom," which seems to cheapen substantive ideas like assembly, protest, voting, self-determination. I really have no problem with appealing to after-hours clubs or commercial consumption of alcohol in those clubs on the premise of having a good time, but bringing freedom into the debate is over the top. Maybe the economic argument that after-hours clubs help promote development is worth a fair hearing, but let's not confuse consumerism (including black market consumerism) and liberty. When the Happy Hour bar hoppers start using swizzle sticks like peasants with pitchforks or start mimicking mobs storming the Bastille buzzkill they have nothing left but weak arguments.

And the weakness is aggravated by a low tolerance for diversity outside of the empty-nest lifestyles of the young and the beautiful (his claim brushes variety to the "tattered" fringes). That seems to be the crowd who Pete believes will save Nashville, and after-hours clubs are the vehicles of the saviors' advent. However, urban residents of all stripes who have to live in the vicinity have valid concerns that hocking alcohol at after-hours clubs, which attract gangs and criminal activities, is like throwing gasoline on fires that endanger the safety of neighborhoods. Some of those residents have been banging away on Pete's argument for the past 3 days in the comments section of his post.

And their arguments against Kotz look strong from my spot in a diverse urban neighborhood:

Pete, you and anybody else who wants to see progressive I'll be happy to take you up to La Casa Blanca at 6am. We can sit on my neighbors porch and discuss the lack of personal freedom .... If we don't get shot it'll be great fun.

Get off [bill sponsor] Council Lady Anna Page's back . She is simply responding to what many Government agencies won't do . Apply the existing laws and ordnances to shut down these barely legal and in most cases illegal businesses . Get on the asses of the Mayor , the Codes Dept. , the Health Dept . etc. that can't or won't shut these places down . Council Lady Page is using her only resources available to her to remedy a deadly situation occurring in her district .

Shootouts, dead bodies, Surenos 13, MP13 and Brown Pride Gangs treated like VIPs, prostitution, drugs, gang tagging, drunks laying on their cars, crossdressers working the night, 15 men in 90 minutes urinating in public, illegal sell of alcohol in a BYOB club, total disrespect for the police. What have I left out?

Pete, Thanks for the press. Now maybe we here in Woodbine will get something done. It's absolutly ridiculous that a few shit-hole, afterhours clubs have more rights than citizens of a community do. Where is the 'Freedom' you speak of in that? Families laying on their livingroom floor to avoid the gunfire, prostitutes in the parking lot 15 feet away, drugs, gangs. Come hand out with us in Woodbine on the corner of Nolensville Rd. & Chilton Ave. between 3 and 6 am on any given weekend...excercise your 'freedoms' let's see how long you and can stand it. Anna Page is for the people of her community of Woodbine/Flatrock.

The people of Woodbine/Flatrock have been living in terror for well over a year now. Two separate families with children have moved elsewhere for the safety of their families. Why? All because of La Casa Blanca-La Copa Fiesta located at 3312 Nolensville Rd. This place is located right in the heart of residential neighborhood.

The owner of this establesment doesn't care about her neighbors, nor does she care about the businesses located next to her. As her overflow parking has gone into the neighboring businesses. Before these businesses can even open the doors for their own operation the following day they have to clean up their parking lots of broken beer bottles, used condoms empty baggies that that were used for some sort of dope. Not to mention the gangs that hang out there and do their own business right inside the after hrs. club. The shoot outs in the parking lots between the security guards and the patrons from the club. And lets not forget the houses that have been hit by gunfire or people finding shell casing by their mailboxes from the drive by shooting that occured back in June of this year.

Anna Page is doing something good for the neighborhood she is not opposed to people having a good time.

I closed down the bars downtown at 3 am every weekend and even tried the after-hours clubs a few times. However, I felt unsafe and surrounded by people who were in a very different state of mind. I don't remember any music or significant contributions to Nashville's night life so I guess I don't see the economic advantage. I personally think working to defeat the English-only referendum is a much better way to make Nashville look like a "cool city."

I pay taxes, am involved in bettering our community, volunteer at school and abide by the law, as do most of my neighbors. I choose to live in this neighborhood and I don't think moving is the answer or solution to any of these questions. If that were the case, then I would encourage you to find some land and open a commune with all-night establishments and require no rules. You won't like a lot of the patronage it will draw but since its all about individual freedoms, you shouldn't need security.

The police are enforcing the law. La Copa Fiesta and her 13 siblings around town have hundreds and hundreds of 2008 Police Reports. Why are they not closed down? Why do they only get a slap on the hand with an affordable fine. The Police are not the Judge and Jury. It is the "SYSTEM" one enters into after the citation is written that fails here.....
La Copa and La Casa was shut down recently for no WATER. (they did not pay their bill). But no one shuts them down for the illegal purchase or selling of alcohol, sell and use of illegal drugs, gangs with guns, public urination, etc.

An After Hours Club is in my South Nashville Glencliff neighborhood which I have lived for many years. This Bar opened in Jan. of 2008. The bar brought with it all kinds of crime-gangs, drunks, wreckless driving, prostituion, drinking from open containers in the parking lot, gross sexual behavior, guns and violence, and on and on. All of which I have personally witnessed.

Nashville's growth and ability to exist as a thriving metropolitan city does not hinge on the 'BYOB FACTOR'.

Isn't regard for safety more important than an after hour beverage? You know, you can choose to drink at home or at a friend's house.

The drinkanistas who ditto Kotz in the comments by contrast are predictably lame. They're blaming residents with legitimate community safety concerns with being buzzkills on their weekend fun and thus destroying realization of Nashville's manifest destiny to be hip.  They're chiding residents to move out of their neighborhoods if they don't like the increase in after-hours crime. So, whose freedom is being threatened in that exchange, Pete?

Tennessee Gets Separation from Alabama and Mississippi with These Numbers

Tennessee just had the 7th highest unemployment rate in the country  ("unemployment" only counts the jobless who receive government unemployment payments.  It does not count the total jobless or the underemployed who do not receive government payments). 

They Act Pro-Defense, But Really Just Use It To Limit Domestic Spending

It's fairly obvious that after 8 years of squandering our military resources under George W. Bush, the military is going to have to be re-built.  And conservatives can be counted on to rattle the sabers of defense spending, but apparently they don't necessarily do so with honest intentions:
Conservative groups are hoping to ramp up defense spending as a tool to limit options for a Democratic Congress and president to pass new, and potentially costly, social programs, including health care reform.

They also like the idea of creating an unrealistically high baseline of expectations for defense spending that will allow them to claim President Obama has cut defense spending. ...

There are so many things wrong with this emerging process that it is hard to address the issue concisely. Promoting overspending on defense in order to forestall popular social spending is undemocratic - it creates a false tension between national security and other public policy goals.
The Democrats are already hamstrung on this one with the Blue Dogs' incessant harping on cutting domestic spending and increasing defense spending. Middle Tennessee's Jim Cooper is a Blue Dog. Looks like properly funding both military and domestic programs is going to be tough for the new Democratic government in Washington.

Well, at Least He Made Gail Kerr Happy

Mike Jameson comes back to the Council tomorrow night with his much maligned bill to set a ceiling on Downtown noise consistent with those of other music-oriented cities. Once again, Jameson is the reasonable one making the compromises on behalf of his constituents to the hysterical local lifestyle tourists for whom Downtown is more of a commodity than a community.

Jameson's detractors tend to set up the straw man that people who move Downtown are unrealistic because they expect suburban noise levels. I've lived in urban neighborhoods for a long time (after growing up suburban), and I've never expected suburban decibels. By the same token, I don't expect that Nashville should have no noise limits whatsoever. Expecting louder noise levels does not lead inexorably to decibel anarchy or the silence of civility. I don't think P.J. Tobia should be allowed to set up an amplifier Downtown and cover the best of Dan Hill.

The buzz I'm hearing from task force set up to deal with this issue a couple of years ago is that Jameson's 85 dB limit applies to a handful of karaoke violators and not to most of the standard music venues plying their trade Downtown. The noise libertarians have brewed up a tempest in a teapot, and this bill should pass.

Port of Nashville Security

Tomorrow night Metro Council will vote on a resolution to accept a $1.5 million Homeland Security grant that would support risk management for the Port of Nashville (extending 10 miles up the Cumberland in either direction).  The grant requires Metro to provide $300K in matching funds.

Will Metro use this to lower the risk of an attack on the Central Water Treatment Plant and resulting harm to neighborhoods in and around Downtown?  And what part of the budget will the matching funds encumber?  Is it capital budget, and are those funds available given the Mayor's recent freeze on capital spending?

McCain Advisor Concedes the US is "Center-Left"

Tod Lindberg writes:
This month's drubbing is just the latest sign that the country's political center of gravity is shifting from center-right to center-left. Republicans who fail to grasp this could be lost in the wilderness for years.

Here's the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat ....

Some analysts like to explain this shift by pointing to Democratic gains and Republican losses among particular regions and demographic groups, arguing that the GOP has growing problems winning over such areas as the Southwest and such groups as Latinos, educated professionals, Catholics and single women. There's something to this, but the Republican problem is actually larger and more categorical. In 2004, Republicans and Democrats each constituted 37 percent of the electorate. In the 2006 congressional election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 38 percent to 36 and won big. This year, the Democrats made up a stunning 39 percent of the electorate, compared with just 32 percent for the Republicans. Add the painful fact that Obama outpolled McCain among independents, 52 percent to 48, and you have a picture of a Republican Party that has lost its connection to the center of the electorate.
That kind of defies the whole "conservatives lost because they compromised conservative principles meme."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I don't think it's really too much to ask

And What of Bankruptcy Concerns?

GM says it cannot wait until inauguration for bail out capital.  So, if the choice is between GM's collapse or bail out, why are Spring Hill's GM employees and UAW representatives just expressing concerns in the Tennessean about exacting bail out loan requirements and not about the possible liquidation of their plant if GM is not bluffing that bankruptcy is imminent?  In other papers bankruptcy is a distinct possibility.  And if Spring Hill is as "well-positioned" as Tennessean interviewees maintain, then could that be indication that GM is bluffing on the urgency of their need to leverage funds as soon as possible?

At $200 billion in costs if collapse occurs in a worst case scenario, this is serious business.  If GM is bluffing it needs to be called and right quick.  Exacting loan payback requirements and incentives to help consumers and the environment might force a tell.  And if I were a Spring Hill auto worker I would be more worried about the risks of bankruptcy and less concerned about bail out expectations.

Iceland Now Bankrupt Due to Globalization and Deregulation

In what has to be a cautionary tale about he arbitrary and capricious global market place and the price of failing to regulate, once prosperous and privatized Iceland does not have enough foreign exchange to import food for its people (it cannot grow its own).  It has also been branded a terrorist nation by the British for defaulting on its British bank loans.  Isn't "free trade" great for foreign countries?  Isn't "free market reform" a panacea?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Inciting Class Warfare is So Easy for Those with Ulterior Motives

Once again some look at the economic crisis and blame those at the bottom of the corporate pecking order rather than those at the top. Unions aren't perfect, but they should not be scapegoated for corporate mistakes, including top heavy CEO salaries and stupid, short-sighted decisions to buy foreign car companies instead of investing in hybrid and green technologies during the 1990s.  It's not even that GM is simply making cars that people don't want to buy.  GM has consistently held the largest market share (source) of all auto makers, and in 2008 their market share has grown.  People are choosing GM cars more than others.  The argument that they are not is a red herring.

If you read this simplistic post and graph (based on spin from the momentously wing-nut editorial voice of the Wall Street Journal) without digging any deeper, you may miss the facts that the big 3 employees make more because their unions have leveraged profit-sharing bonuses, decent health care packages in an extremely expensive health care market and 30-year pensions. So what's the alternative? Give CEO's decent health care and pension packages but not lower level employees? By the same token, in 2006, employees in 2 of the big 3 shops did not receive bonuses because of lack luster sales, even at a time where Toyota (which is listed on the graph) was catching the big 3 in base pay in order to be more competitive with union shops!  Even non-union workers should be thankful that unions set the bar high for all auto line workers.  Honda and Nissan are not far behind UAW shops in base salary.  If it were left up to the executives and the apologists for deregulation, the bar would be in the dirt.

Foreign auto makers like Honda can pay their employees less because they accept sunbelt incentives (a.k.a., corporate welfare) from non-union, exurban hinterlands in Ohio and Alabama where employment and wages are depressed and residents feel lucky just to get a job with a salary higher than the meager prospects offered locally.  One of the ways Honda boasts that its record on lay-offs is better than the big 3, is to utilize sub-contracted temp workers who have no benefits in place of full-time hires.  That depresses the salary of Honda employees and generates the illusion that Honda does more with less.  Honda decides to pay for work related surgery rather than design for workplace safety, which further drives up the price of medical care.  There is so much detail that matters, but which is left out of graphs and scapegoating commentary.

But in the end, why complain when the standard auto assembly line worker needs no health care, pensions, or remedial lessons on sexual harassment in the workplace?

The way some object, you would think that the Chrysler assembly line still looked like this (but with pensions, health care, and profit sharing):

I am by no means arguing that any of the big 3 auto makers deserve a bailout (unless it is a harsh loan with exacting regulations bent toward consumers and the environment). In fact, bankruptcy may be a viable option. GM doesn't deserve a leg up for the mistakes it made when it was raking in profits unless, as Ashton Kutcher argued on Bill Maher last night, the oil industry wants to bail them out. But blaming the unions for those mistakes is raptorial and reprehensible.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bells Bend Park Special Programs

From our friends at the Bells Bend Outdoor Center:
We have a couple of special programs coming up at Bells Bend that we wanted to make sure everyone knew about.

Tomorrow, Sat. Nov. 15, from 10-11:30 a.m. we are hosting a "Painting with Pat" art class. This free class is for children ages 6-12, and the participants will be drawing a live animal model using pastels. There will be a few giveaways, including a backpack full of art supplies. If you would like to attend, please register at

Also coming up, don't miss "Learn to Camp" night on Fri. Nov. 21 starting at 4:30 p.m. and ending on Saturday the 22nd at noon. Bring your equipment and your food (Bells Bend might have some equipment that you can use, please call for more information) and let's have fun! Chris Guerin will be there to help those who need it and for those who don't come on out! There is limited space so please call soon- 862-4187. 

We hope to see you at the park soon! 

Bells Bend Outdoor Center
4187 Old Hickory Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37218
(615) 862-4187

Party vs. Ideology

I'm seeing somewhat of a regional knee-jerk reaction to the a recent NY Times piece about the racial implications of the Republican lock on some parts of the south and the GOP's reduction to a regional party.  Do I think that the NY Times is the be-all-end-all of regional analysis?   Certainly not.  But the story had its merits.

Facing South is a blog I visit daily, but I think that their analysis is a bit off in attempts to counter the NY Times.  This map they use to make their point is helpful at one level, but it is also misleading to assume that southern states that split between Democrats and Republicans are somehow complex or pluralistic relative to other states.  For instance Tennessee may be more pink to purple on the question of party division, but ideologically Tennessee is deep red.  To some extent Phil Bredesen is popular in Tennessee because he's conservative and could easily be a Republican.  Simply put, Tennessee does not shade progressive on any statewide level, and insofar as conservatives tend to cluster in the GOP, I would call it more Republican than split.

I'd compare seeing government in party categories to seeing church in denominational categories.  Understanding church goers as Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc. is becoming less helpful than understanding them as conservative, moderate, liberal groups of devotees.  Ideological divisions transcend denominational boundaries and garner greater loyalty from followers.  Likewise, fidelity to ideological imagined communities trumps party membership.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

George W. Bush Seizing His Last Chance to Make Us More Vulnerable Again before He Leaves

The Bush Administration has 90 deregulation measures ready to be in place by November 22, which would render them practically impossible for the next administration to overturn:

The new Bush rules would allow employers to bar employees from claiming leave and being paid when they're sick or a family member is sick. They would make unsightly and polluting mountaintop removal in Appalachia easier and more convenient to meet unregulated demands for coal in foreign markets. They would loosen the anti-terrorism regulations on shipping making us more vulnerable to a future terrorist conspiracy.

Bush has planned a total fire sale of what little regulatory shielding we have left. He'll see to it that everything must go before he does.

Bank of America Subpoenaed to Divulge Executive Compensation

More power to NY AG Andrew Cuomo:
Late last month, Cuomo sought information from the country’s nine largest banks, including Charlotte-based BofA, regarding their plans for paying bonuses. He also asked their boards to explain what mechanisms they have in place to protect the taxpayer funds obtained through the federal bailout package.

The banks agreed to accept $125 billion in federal funds as part of the government’s "troubled assets relief program," or TARP, which is injecting money into banks.

How banks handle their compensation has become a political issue with the infusion of public funds. Critics say executives should not receive large amounts of compensation while their institutions are benefiting from federal funding.
The 9 banks receiving federal bail out capital should have to cough up information on how they compensate their executives.  If they don't like it, let them give the tax money back to the federal government.

Mass Transit Infrastructure Another Winner in Last Week's Election

23 of 32 ballot initiatives around the country passed in the November 4 elections authorizing up to $75 billion in mass transit improvements.  Here's the entire list.

It's in Their Self Interest to Go Public

On the Obamas' options for DC private schools, Achenbach opines:

They cost about $300,000 a year once you include the auction items. To attend a DC private school, you must not only pay tuition, but also must buy auction tickets and then go to the auction and spend thousands of dollars to prove to the other parents that you are committed to the school and also, by the way, loaded. There is an auction every weekend: the big school auction, the crew team auction, the field hockey team auction, the chess team auction, the particle accelerator fund drive auction, and so on. Any self-respecting DC private school wants to have at least as much money on hand as, and a science building equal to that of, Princeton.

The Obamas are supposedly fairly wealthy, but eight years of private school will fix that.

The Obamas are also going to take a huge pay cut. Sure, he'll make more, getting bumped from a senator's salary to that of a president, but he won't have time to write those bestselling books. Worse, she's not going to make a thing. The first lady is forced to work around the clock for no pay. She's technically a volunteer in the White House.

She'll be borrowing money from her staffers. She'll turn to her social secretary and say, "I'm going to the squash team auction tonight -- can I borrow two thousand dollars?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's Office of Urban Policy Still Empty Concept

Last summer at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Barack Obama promised that as President he would create an Office of Urban Policy.  As President Elect, he indicated that he intends to keep that promise through a surrogate's speech recently made to an organization of black columnists.

Obama started using surrogates on urban policy in August, which was read by some as an attempt to distance and give him deniability for the sake of getting elected.  At the time I wondered whether distancing and deniability would also serve a President Obama in leveraging support from a regressive Congress, because governing can be seen as campaigning by other means. Even in his appearance before the Mayor's conference, Obama's urban policy speech was characterized with relatively conservative initiatives like community development block grant funding (created by Republicans to replace Great Society programs) and Community Oriented Policing Services (created by the Clinton administration).

While Obama seems to be moving ahead with his plans for an urban policy office, we have yet to see whether the initiatives that come out of the office are bold and different from past initiatives intended to replace progressive policies. Any ideas worthy of the name "change" will have to go beyond block grants and COPS in order to prime America's urban engine.  The Bush Administration has set the bar pretty low, so we would be unwise to assume that any progress (like fully funding block grants) is anything more than a starting point.

Right now the promise of a federal Office of Urban Policy is a blank slate, which is apropos, given that President Elect's web page on urban policy (which was replete with text last week, including a reference to Nashville's music industry) has been wiped clean in the last couple of days.

HT:  Freddie O

Gouging Foundations

This is scraping the bottom of the business ethics barrel:  Goldman Sachs allegedly rips off endowments, charities, and foundations when approached for investments. The prospect that Goldman Sachs would go out of its way to test whether non-profits comparison shop and then soak the vulnerable ones is appalling.

Utility in Utilities?

Are Downtown businesses currently without power involuntarily sacrificing for tonight's CMA awards?  A tweet I read earlier today from News 2's Christian Grantham seemed to indicate that power to CMA is assured while power to other establishments is not.  Some businesses may be without power until tomorrow.  I don't know how the power grid operates, but I would like to know if power is being rerouted from smaller businesses to Sommet Center.  If one of the selling points for having CMA Downtown is money it will bring to Downtown businesses, but Sobro is browned out, how are the affected establishments benefiting from CMA?

Joe the Self-Marketing Pimp

Further proof that having a website or writing a blog are no real accomplishments. Don't forget to pre-order an autographed copy of his book!

Music is What Matters

To prohibit or not prohibit alcohol at after-hours clubs is a moot question. The post-hippie, proto-Disco beginnings of dance culture infused with funk and jazz started in "underground, but legal" NYC house and garage parties that did not include alcohol, but did include a space of freedom for black and white, gay and straight self-expression. Clubs are great because of the music. Booze is an afterthought, more money-maker than necessity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coddling Lieberman Reinforces the Democrats' Reputation for Lacking Spine and Resolution

The tubes are replete today with news that Democratic Party leadership is prepared to play ball with misbehaving and disloyal Senator Joe Lieberman once again. I appreciate the need to pick bigger battles than this one, but why do Democrats have to reinforce their image as gluttons for punishment who can't stand success? He just going to burn them in the future like he has in the past:

I hope that the new détente with Lieberman is not signaling the beginning of a repeat of the disappointments of the 2006 class of Democratic congressional leaders.

UPDATE: Lieberman's recent deceptions are no different than his effective torpedoing of the Florida recount for his own selfish political gain:

Unless Democrats have some sort of secret spell for turning Lieberman's misbehavior against him and coming out looking strong, then they should cut him loose to visit his sins on the GOP.