Monday, June 30, 2008

Fantastic yet sobering news in the TennCare fight

Finally, the most vulnernable of our citizens have won in the ongoing fight to preserve justice and any sense of morality in the state TennCare program. And so do taxpayers, according to a judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The following press release from the Tennessee Justice Center outlines the legal victory from a ruling by the Court of Appeals over the Bredesen administration's use of deceit, delay and despicable heavy-handedness in required care of children of the state. The lengths to which the Bredesen administration has stooped in its ongoing destruction of the state health care safety net are shocking and run counter to the statements of self-congratulation the governor made a week ago to the Nashville Rotary Club.

Yet, why believe the Justice Center and not the Bredesen administration? That's fair to ask.

I know people quite well in both camps. And I can say with absolute certainty that the people at the Justice Center are quite credible. The governor and his aides have too frequently not been credible, and history from the arena to the Dell deal to the destruction of TennCare prove Bredesen's lack of trustworthiness as a public official.

In comparsion, I even know Gordon Bonnyman's son, Houston. I met him when I was near death two years ago this week in a Vanderbilt Medical Center bed. He was my care partner. The young man was most compassionate in my most desperate hours. In his high school years, Houston was an after-school tutor to children in the Edgehill Homes housing project. He certainly is his dad's remarkable reflection.

In addition, a local hero of mine, Gregg Ramos, is on the board of directors for the Tennessee Justice Center. Ramos, an attorney, also is head of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Nashville.

So with this personal knowledge of the political players and advocates, I am able to confidently present you this press release on the legal victory from the Justice Center. Please take the time to read it, because Bredesen is hoping you'll be bored about TennCare and let him do as he pleases.

But the welfare of our state's most vulnerable children is at risk. And so is the openness of government, which increasingly is being thwarted by the Bredesen administration when it comes to e-mails and the conducting of state business electronically.

Please take time to read the following, because it involves the conducting of public policy in your name. The bold-facing of words is my doing to more easily direct you to the shocking parts of the ruling:

"A federal appeals court issued a ruling Thursday in a closely watched case involving TennCare’s treatment of 650,000 children across Tennessee.

"... (the) ruling means that senior state officials must produce electronic records and other files containing evidence about the operations of the TennCare program. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Cincinnati, also authorized a computer expert to inspect officials’ computers to determine whether officials had altered computer records to evade court orders.

"The case will now return to the Nashville court, where a monitor will oversee state officials’ production of the TennCare records. The court granted the state limited relief, ruling that state officials need not turn over personal computers to U.S. Marshals for forensic copying.

"A federal court in Nashville found in 2001 that the state and its managed care contractors were systematically violating quality of care standards governing the treatment of low-income TennCare children, including those in the state’s troubled foster care system. There was extensive evidence that children suffered serious harm as a result of those violations.

"In 2006, state officials claimed to have fixed the problems. But a panel of court-appointed monitors issued a lengthy report last year finding that the state had not proven that claim, and there remained evidence of widespread problems.

"The case was originally filed in 1998. Thursday’s ruling in the decade-old suit dealt with the state’s failure to preserve and produce evidence in the case. Last year, U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes found evidence of the negligent, systematic destruction of large amounts of evidence by state officials and TennCare contractors. He ordered that computers used by 50 senior state officials, including Governor Bredesen and Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz, be forensically imaged in order to protect their contents from further destruction.

"During the proceedings, the Governor and other officials disclosed that they had used Bredesen’s personal email system and their personal computers for state business. They claimed that by putting the public records on personal computers, officials could shield them from inspection."

... "the appeals court ruled ... that officials must preserve and produce evidence as ordered by (federal) Judge Haynes. The ruling left standing his finding that the state had violated court orders requiring it to produce evidence.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Guy Cole, Jr., noted that the state had made Judge Haynes’ job more difficult by 'repeated delays and the institutional inefficiencies that plague the TennCare system.' He observed that officials’ 'continual noncompliance and acrimonious litigation practice has unfortunately steered this case away' from the goal of ensuring that 'Tennessee’s children receive the benefits owed to them under the Consent Decree and federal law'.

"The costs of officials’ noncompliance have been 'borne by the judicial system and the citizens of Tennessee.'

Wow. So there you have it. Your government is being operated according to the narrowness and pettiness of the few at the expense of the many. And it's being done electronically, to shield you from the truth.

Let's back our opinions with our names

I received a response from a reader strongly disagreeing with my writing on the abuse leveled by the heinous 287g program in Nashville. Here is my response in hopes the reader will see it, even if we continue to disagree.

This is America, afterall. Good people can disagree. But let's back our opinions with our names or at least our e-mail addresses to continue the discussion so some common ground can possibly be found.

Dear dintn,

I tried to go to your blog site to contact you personally but there was no visible name and your profile would not come up.

I hope you are not ashamed to use your real name with your opinions. That is the least we should offer each other as Americans in the marketplace of ideas.

As I offered to the other reader, please meet me at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville so you can meet the people who are part of the story of abuse by 287g. That is the most real evidence I can offer. And we will respect your right to tell these people that they are not experiencing what they are experiencing.

The Tennessean reported earlier this year that most of the people being deported do not have a criminal record. One can rationalize that it is a crime to be illegally in this country, but it is only a misdemeanor with a payable fine. Would we say someone who is stopped for a broken headlight or not wearing a seatbelt has a criminal record, since he or she receives a ticket for a misdemeanor offense payable by fine?

Of course not. Yet 287g was sold to the public as being a program that would only deport people with criminal records. Now, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall denies that truth. We all know better.

Just like with the case made to sell the war in Iraq, you can't make something good come from something wrong.

You do not want evidence; you want absolution for your wrongheadness and your fear of people who are different.

That is not possible. The nation and world are changing. Get used to it. My post on Monday's USA TODAY story shows that your kind of thinking will be overthrown at the ballot box by 2020 at the latest. And rightly so.

Tim Chávez

Nashville needs an Indepedent congressional candidate

In talking with Nashville Democrats of all stripes and professions, a sense of resignation resides when it comes to discussing Democrat Jim Cooper as their congressman.

He is a moderate Democrat, which in Tennessee means you can gut TennCare for the most vulnerable like Gov. Phil Bredesen did and still go to Jefferson-Jackson Day party fundraisers. You also, with a straight face, can consider yourself a viable vice presidential candidate on a party ticket pushing change. Usually, you do so before an audience of bobblehead notables who only nod in agreement.

Beyond party and political labels, Nashville may actually need an Independent by party identification to run for Congress in 2010. The person will need to have a lot of his or her own money but will financially benefit from not having to run in a primary. The person will need to be somewhat well-known and able to speak passionately and often in public on timely local issues in contrast with Cooper.

The person will need to have well-established contacts and a record of action in the African-American community and be well-thought of by liberals at Vanderbilt University. The person will need to have a record of respect to local Republicans so he or she can attract some of their attention and votes.

In the beginning, such a candidate will probably lose in 2010. But he or she will serve as a threat to the Tennessee Democratic Party in losing what has always been considered a safe congressional seat.

A strong GOP contender like Beth Harwell could secure enough conservative votes with the help of talk radio, while an Independent could siphon just enough support from Cooper to make him vulnerable. If the Democrats are not going to use the seat to push a progressive agenda and oppose programs like 287g, then give it to a Republican who will at least be passionate about his or her agenda. It may take Nashvillians losing their Democratic seat in 2010 to finally field a strong candidate and leader from the donkey side of the political mascots.

Nashvillians are way too comfortable for living in a city where the school district will be taken over by the state, which is akin -- as my old high school geometry teacher would say in reference to my friend and myself -- to the "blind leading the blind". I do not mean offense to the visually disabled, who are among the most brilliant people in any community for the obstacles they must overcome and the sense of learning they cherish.

No matter the analogy, someone needs to push Nashvillians to expect more from their leaders, particularly when it comes to education, protecting TennCare which is tied to the federal Medicaid program and ending punitive public policy like 287g.

That someone is an adequately financed Independent Party candidate running against Jim Cooper in 2010.

GREAT news in the fight for respect and tolerance

Today's USA Today featured the most heartening news amid all the negatives about the Hispanic presence in this nation and punitive political actions locally and annually.

"Births, not immigration, now account for most of the growth in the nation's Hispanic population, a distinct reversal of trends of the past 30 years.

"The Hispanic baby boom is transforming the demographics of small-town America in a dramatic way. Some rural counties where the population had been shrinking and aging are growing because of Hispanic immigration and births and now must provide services for the young.

"In all of the uproar over immigration, this is getting missed," says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute. "All the focus is on immigration, immigration, immigration. At some point, it's not. It's natural increase.

"This natural increase — more births than deaths — is accelerating among Hispanics in the USA because they are younger than the U.S. population as a whole."

Thank you, Our Lady of Guadalupe, protectress of the Hispanic people.

All the anti-immigrant conservatives will have to swallow a big one on this matter of simple demographics. And more Hispanic births represent family values, a supposedly "pro-life" perspective, the next workforce for the American economy and a personal dedication to faith.

Each child is considered a gift from God. Conservatives claim they champion these sentiments. But will they when it comes to we dark-skinned folks? Inquiring minds want to know.

To be honest, however, we don't have to care anymore how the anti-immigrant folks think. The second wonderful aspect of this news is that these births represent more American citizens who vote, at least by the year 2019. These Census numbers tracking the explosion of Hispanic births in this nation started in 2001.

We don't have to care much longer about Lou Dobbs and CNN's refusal to make him follow simple rules of fairness and accuracy.

We don't have to be frustrated much longer by George S. and his ABC-TV show This Week on Sunday mornings. His refusal to have Hispanics on his Roundtable panel and ABC News' refusal to answer any questions about it soon won't matter. More of the TV audience is moving away from his show and to Tom Brokaw on NBC-TV's Meet the Press. I like George W. and Cokie Roberts but not enough to watch This Week anymore. And when ABC debuts its reality show saluting border patrol and ICE agents next year, then Latinos will turn even more away from the network.

We don't have to care much longer about Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads. Each day, one of his listeners dies and a future non-listener is born.

Accordingly, a member of the Republican Party dies each day. If the GOP wants to remain a viable party within this generation, then it will have to give up its anti-immigrant agenda in 287(g) deportation programs, ICE raids of workplaces and blocking comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

Republicans claim they are not anti-immigrant. But from the victims of public policy in Hispanic families in the Nashville area where I live, I can tell you that all Hispanics -- legal or not -- are being painted with the same intolerant brush. The 287g program is destroying hard-working families. I have the personal stories to prove that point, not the backside-covering rhetoric of empty ideological words.

So be of good cheer, all my Latino brothers and sisters, and all you good advocates and souls who view everyone as God's children. The day of deliverance is at hand through the gift of life. So is a better day for America with this young workforce that will make our economy more prosperous and this nation more worthy of its claim to be "under God".

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sorry, Liz, but I have to write this post

It's painful for me to disagree with or criticize Scene editor Liz Murray Garrigan for anything she says as the best political writer in Tennessee. She stood by me in print when few others would. I'll never be able to repay her for that. She soon is leaving her post for a new publishing position in Nashville. And so many of us wish her well.

But in her taped appearance this morning on This Week with Bob Mueller, she was asked about Democrat Congressman Jim Cooper's lunacy with the RECs and his wrongdoing in using someone else's password to get into a restricted website.

That matter is simple right and wrong that our Mommas taught us when we only reached their knees. If Cooper could not get the information on the RECs he wanted, then he should have done as any journalist and citizen and FOIA-ed it. Now unless the matter is one of National Security because RECs are connected to bin Laden(which they're not but don't ask Cooper), he should have waited like the rest of us for the information. And if using FOIA does not produce the needed results, then he should propose legislation to strengthen the law.

You can be if Dick Cheney used someone else's password to get into a restricted website of a political enemy, most of news media pundits would be crying "foul!"

This Week's use of the word "lobbyist" to describe REC representative Glenn English was technically accurate but very misleading to the public and Cooper's Nashville constituents as to the depth of the hot water he immersed himself in. English is a former Democratic congressman. He is from Oklahoma where I grew up, and he was a very straight shooter in serving the state and his constituents in my years there. As I have written earlier, if Glenn says you're in trouble with the FBI, then Cooper's constituents should believe it. A statement from him is not an empty claim.

So I was disappointed and suprised that Liz did not have that kind of knowledge and background on the topic. Her defense of Cooper as some sort of nice nerd was really no explanation about a politician who has gone off the deep end on a matter that does not even affect his constituents.

As for those constituents, however, he has remained silent on the failure of the Metro public schools and their coming takeover by the state. Who will be watching the state and Gov. Phil Bredesen to make sure they will do a decent job in running the district? Remember, it was Bredesen as mayor who put so many children behind in the first place with his Core Curriculum? He is not a person to trust now just because he is in a higher office.

There have been other Cooper failings just this year. Why was he on the stage with Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander in touting the anti-immigrant and anti-family 287(g) deportation program? Sure that is Cooper's trademark bipartisanship but joining with the anti-immigrant crowd is far from virtuous. It's bad judgment on critical public policy affecting the most vulnerable of our community.

While a nerd and moderate, Cooper is not a progressive who should be representing the predominant progressive ideals of Nashville and proposing change for suffering African-American and other challenged neighborhoods. Too many good people and small business owners are being shot and killed in Nashville. A congressman or woman can and should make a difference, even it is simply from his or her bully pulpit.

Cooper for sure is no Dick Fulton, who championed progressive measures like affordable housing during his tenure in Congress for Nashville.

Now granted, Cooper may be incapable. So the responsibility is on us to find his replacement, at the latest by 2010.

As for This Week and its contribution to Middle Tennessee political enlightenment, its continued use of Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser on its panel of experts is an embarrassment and a deep cut into the show's credibility. Whenever I see Sasser on the show as a panelist, I immediately switch over to Meet the Press on WSMV.

And for a show to emanate from Nashville with only white folks as experts is just plain insensitive and unbalanced. I'm not talking about me returning to the show. The cost of gas is too high for me to keep driving to near downtown Nashville. Besides, I'm using all my voluneteer miles for Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on the campaign to pay off the debt there.

I went to a lot of work to get the Rev. Enoch Fuzz -- a stalwart in the Nashville and in state African-American social and political circles and pastor of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church -- on the show. He was great and added the right mix of faith into his answers. More than anything, Tennessee is a place of faith before even politics.

But I haven't seen Rev. Fuzz and any other African-American on Mueller's panel the past two weeks since I returned from burying my marvelous mother. That's sad.

And to keep hearing from Sasser -- whose party in Tennessee under his direction is a valueless and idealistic mess except for U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen and a few other legislative notables -- provides only an apologist's perspective. He does not offer analysis to give viewers any sense of his awareness of reality. Steve Gill comes off looking real good compared to Saaser. Perhaps that is Mueller's intent since Gill is the station's political expert. Poor Garrigan is figuratively and literally left in the middle of this circus on the panel.

Liz, forgive me. I hate to disagree with you or criticize you. But Cooper's lunacy over the RECs should be another affront to a progressive city like Nashville. It also should be a signal to voters that it is time to recruit a more effective and more vocal leader on matters affecting their congressional district and the most vulnerable among us -- first.

Thank you and an offer

I was grateful to receive the following response to my post on the political luncacy and eccentrity of Nashville Democrat, Congressman Jim Cooper:

The reader wrote ...
"As I'm sure you know, Rep. Blackburn and most conservatives are not "anti-immigrant." They only oppose illegal immigration (with every other sensible citizen, I hope). This is a very important distinction and I hope you were not intentional in your distortion."
June 28, 2008 3:19 PM

Here was my reply, which I extend to everyone, particularly the news media:

I wrote to the reader ...

Thank you for your response and reading my post. I appreciate both.

As to my anti-immigrant note, it was very intentional. I write so based on personal experiences not rhetorical, political claims(rationalization to cover political backsides). The 287(g) program has led to racial profiling of Hispanics here, legal or not. That is offensive, considering that my uncle, now 86, was a World War II hero as a middle gunner on a B-17. He rescued two members of his crew and pulled their parachutes before the plane crashed. He then was hidden by the Dutch Underground.

The 287(g) program has led to the deportation of heads of households of families legally here and children born in this country. The families are left without their main source of income and they're made into single-parent households. There are more personal experiences I could write about that are consequences of policy supported by Rep. Blackburn. But do not take my word for it.

I invite you to come down to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville. For you, I will assemble a group of Hispanic mothers and children legally here. I will let them tell their story.

And if you have any influence with Rep. Blackburn, please ask her to come along. We will treat her with respect, as is a custom of our culture no matter if we disagree with someone. I will bring with me Father Joseph Patrick Breen, pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church. He himself is the grandson of immigrants. And he is very disturbed by the 287g program in Nashville. He also has many personal stories, including appeals from local business owners who want to help the damaged families of their workers.

Please consider my offer to be made aware of the personal consequences of wrong public policy. It always is a benefit when we stretch our boundaries. I did so for several years in speaking to conservative groups across Tennessee and talking face to face about immigration reform. You'd have been surprised at the common ground we found.

Yes, we both were against illegal immigration. But there is a right way and wrong way to address it. Blackburn's approach creates too many victims, which from my upbringing goes against the American commitment to fairness and tolerance. Sen. John McCain has proposed comprehensive reform in tandem with punitive enforcement measures. He tried to establish a path for the payment of a big fine, then continue to work for legalization. He proposed a temporary work program. But his own party blocked his initiatives in favor of only punitive measures.

Again, thank you for your comments, and I hope we can move forward in understanding each other.

With best regards,

Tim Chavez

Still uneducated about Latino heritage

Dear Mr. Tom Brokaw,

Congratulations on taking over for the late Tim Russert on Meet the Press. It is consolation for viewers and fans of Mr. Russert. But your show this week --that focused on the West being the region that determines the general election -- had a major, missing component to inform your viewers.

Although Latinos were frequently mentioned as a big factor out West, your show failed to have a single Hispanic source. All that we of the Hispanic electorate received was more white guys making judgments on what we're thinking and how we'll vote. That's offensive.

Then your network's political analyst showed his great ignorance of Hispanic culture in referencing Sen. John McCain's trip this week to Mexico and Colombia. He mentioned that an important moment in his trip will be his visit to the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.


It is the tilma, the cloak of St. Juan Diego that he used to wrap around roses in the middle of winter to take to the unconvinced local bishop in Dec. 1531. It provided evidence of the Holy Mother's appearances on three days on a wasteland hill five miles north of then-Mexico City. On the cloak was left the beautiful, dark-skin image of the Blessed Virgin. Incredibly, that image still exists today on the material of a cloak that should have long, long ago disintegrated.

The cloak and its story is held in great, high esteem by Mexican-American voters in this nation. It is part of our being, handed down from generation to generation over almost five centuries.

McCain is very smart in stopping to pay his respects. That will make an impression on Hispanic voters, two-thirds of which are Mexican-American.

So Mr. Brokaw, please pass this information on to your political analyst so he does not make the same offending mistake in covering Sen. McCain's visit this week to the most holy site containing the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

And please consider adding a Hispanic voice to Meet the Press so someone who looks like us and knows us can have a voice.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

McCain, Hispanic voters deserved better

Simply out of respect for all the sacrifice required to run for president, Sen. John McCain deserved better from CNN in its coverage of his remarks today to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday afternoon before 4 p.m. CST, anchor Rick Sanchez and his network showed Sen. Barack Obama making his pitch on immigration reform to Hispanic politcos. But CNN focused on anti-war protestors who interrupted McCain's remarks. Sanchez, even in a subsequent interview with a conference observer, did not let Hispanic voters like myself know what McCain said about immigration reform -- particularly in what would come first ... more border security or steps for undocumented workers and their families to gain legal status.

Damn those anti-war protestors for trying to take away our forum. Hispanics get few chances to be heard on the national poltical stage. Damn them also for showcasing such disrepect at our conference. Our culture emphasizes respect for patriots and those who have served, even if we disagree with them. Now people will believe that Latino officials were behind the demonstration. And shame on CNN for giving these protestors a further forum.

While to his credit Sanchez was trying to emphasize to the nation that Latinos were not behind the inappropriate protests, he forgot to inform Latino voters about what McCain was saying concerning what he would do on issues close to our hearts. That's forgivable under the stress of the moment, but it just seems we get shortchanged in the media coverage all the time. And Sanchez -- who has done a much better job before Saturday in bringing attention to Latino issues -- is sadly segregated to Saturdays and Sundays.

CNN did televise the NALEO appearances live. But for many Hispanic advocates like myself, Saturday is a critical time of the week to connect with the community. I was writing a grant for $20,000 to help make the loan payments on Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church here in Nashville. I have to go to the public library to use their computers and copier.

So I was depending on CNN to tell me what happened at NALEO.

Did McCain and Obama address stopping the 287(g) program that's ravaging Latino families in Nashville?

Did McCain and Obama address ending the ICE raids of workplaces?

Did McCain condemn the Minutemen harrassing Hispanics in Maricopa County in Arizona, along with the local sheriff?

We need political pressure placed now against those mistreating Latinos, not wait so many more months for a new president. The candidates must be forced to take a stand on these matters immediately if they want the Hispanic vote.

Earlier in the day, CNN anchor T.J. Holmes did a good job interviewing a Latino newspaper columnist on what Latino voters are saying and what they want to hear from the candidates.

Thank goodness for the internet and bloggers, where I could get the full story on what the candidates said at NALEO. I'll post on that tomorrow after I analyze the remarks and candidate records.

Recession -- Williamson County style.

Saturday evening in Williamson County is the best time to tell how severe the economic recession is hitting locally.

It's bad, real bad, particularly in the Cool Springs area.

Outback Steakhouse had no one sitting outside waiting to get called in to dine at 5:30 p.m. Cozymels' parking on the east side was almost empty. Wal-Mart's parking lot was packed, while the more upscale grocers were seeing lighter traffic.

Williamson County is the 11th most affluent county in the nation. Household income here is about $80,000 on average. Yet consumers are acting like they're New Orleans' refugees. Fear hangs heavy, even among the predominantly Republican residents who live here.

On the other side of Cool Springs west of I-65, the southwest corner of the Moore's Lane and Highway 31 intersection remains mostly undeveloped. The major, senior-living complex and retail center planned there is stunted to a single set of units on the south side. Walgreens on the northwest side of the intersection is hurting for consumer traffic, staff tell me. And that great hill there had to be amputated for this store. I love the staff there where I'm their No. 1 pharmacy customer with my leukemia. But I hate to see the severed hill behind the store.

So here in the land of milk and honey, economic times are a little sour ... particularly on Saturday night.

Most underplayed story of the century ... WE'RE GOING TO DIE SOON!!!

Yesterday's shocking story from The Indepedent about the polar icecap melting before winter was treated as a ho-hum happening by the nation's news media elite, including The New York Times and CNN.

Instead, there was more concentration on the body language of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their first, Love Connection supportive appearance at Unity, N.H. Hey masters of the nation's leading print and TV information outlets: Obama may not have a nation to lead if he wins in November because the freakin' planet and all of us on it may soon be dead from global warming.

Think that $4 a gallon has changed lives? Consider rising sea levels on ocean communities, the extinction of species including those cuddly polar bears and baby seals, increasing temperatures and more, severe crop-killing drought and floods when the world needs and can afford more food.

Somebody get out the 96-point headline type reserved for Jesus' Second Coming.

Former Vice President Al Gore must have been feeling lower than an intellectual on Rush Limbaugh's support staff as he paced his local Belle Meade mansion over the media's meltdown about the most shocking event so far from global warming.

The icecap has never melted before, which satisfies one of the categories of newsworthiness that I learned in journalism school. First man on the Moon ... newsworthy. First vacine for polio ... newsworthy. First Bush speech without an embarrassing gaffe ... newsworthy. FIRST TIME THE FREAKIN' POLAR ICECAP IS GOING TO MELT ... DAMN NEWSWORTHY!

Think of the North Pole under water in September before refreezing in winter. It makes even a child want to cry.

Aaaaaheeeeee! The world really could be coming to an end, and CNN is focused on how Hillary is leaning in her pants suit and what Obama's eyes are really telling us. Yes, the Obama-Clinton love-in was a first, too. But bigger than the beginning of the world coming to an end? No way.

It makes you ashamed to be a media professional. Do these elites really believe that mere mention is enough for a story so shocking to the planet's future?

I'm no environmentalist, but I can recognize something terribly bad. Then consider all the nations rushing to ice-uncovered territory to turn the polar region into a big, polluted oil field on top of the world. You can bet the Russians aren't going to be concerned about the mess they make. And no one will have to give up their gas guzzlers after all, dooming the world's ozone layer.

Either way, we're dead.

Forgive them, Mr. Gore. The nation's media outlets really haven't been listening and learning.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

'Kenneth, what's the frequency?'; Jim Cooper knows

Congressman Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, meet Dan Rather, former anchor for CBS News.

Both of you seem to have been involved in an out-of-body, out-of-mind experience. And Rep. Cooper, yours has already outdone Rather's story about his mugging in New York. It would be most entertaining to watch, except for the people of Nashville and your congressional district who are suffering for your failings.

From watching WSMV-TV and reading Jeff Woods' blog on the Nashville Scene website, Congressman, you've gone further than any politician has dared go in pushing legislative oversight that won't even affect his or her congressional district for the better. And you're even using someone's else password to get protected information about America's most pressing threat -- Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Gosh, I guessed bin Laden. Wrong, again.

Finally we learn from former U.S. Rep. Glenn English -- from my home state of Oklahoma -- that you're under FBI investigation. Sorry, Rep. Cooper, but ol' Glenn is a straight shooter from my knowledge of him during his days in Congress. If he says you're under investigation by the FBI, then your constituents should believe it.

Holy Smokes, Congressman! What are you going to do for a befuddling encore, endorse Sen. John McCain for president?

You already weirded us out by standing up on stage with the darling of the extreme right, "Congressman" Marsha Blackburn, and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in praising Sheriff Daron Hall's 287(g) deportation program of Hispanic immigrants. This kiss of the ass of the anti-immigrant crowd is something that not even the most pandering Democrat would dare to do. But there you were, a puppet on the stage for this Republican buffoonery and historical nastiness. While Democratic insiders say you now realize your mistake, we've not heard a word of apology from your mouth or any action to remove your endorsement of the heinous 287(g).

But you are speaking out against those big bad RECs. It always easier to tackle an issue and special interest not in your congressional district. I understand no one is tackling the fruit fly problem in Fresno. Interested?

Nashvillians are receiving the poorest of representation in Washington, not only from Cooper but Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker as well. No one is representing your progressive values. No one is speaking up for the most vulnerable among us. No one has the passion to use his or her bully pulpit to demand attention to what's affecting your lives and stamping out your ideals.

For you his constituents, Don Quixote Cooper is out jousting with the windmills of the Rural Electric Cooperatives and using someone else's password to get into a restricted website. Meanwhile, Tennessee's Democratic Party is in shambles, TennCare is being whittled down to nothing by the governor and Metro public schools are one year away from being taken over by the state. The state takeover will be like a blind man leading a one-legged fellow across a swollen river. Heaven help the children.

So, Rep. Cooper, what do you have to say for yourself concerning this latest eccentricity besides all the ones before? More importantly, what do Nashvillians have to say about lacking a voice in Congress that speaks for them and their values on what a nation and community should be?

Univision has a drinking problem, too

People look at me strange at parties when I turn down alcohol for diet soft drink.

They think: "Aren't you Hispanic? You folks are supposed to be big drinkers. Cerveza!, por favor, or is it 'pour some more'."

What they don't add to this stereotype, particularly about Mexican-Americans, is that we're also thought to be drunken, stupid and taking siestas all the time.

I don't drink much because I don't like the taste. Besides, I don't have to be inebriated to have a good time, just be with my good wife watching TV, playing with the pets or arguing over politics.

I don't begrudge anyone else to drink. But when the stereotype and the reality become so damaging to the welfare of all Hispanics, then I believe a line should be drawn. For our own good.
The recruitment of big dollars from beer and liquor companies by the National Council of La Raza to fund its functions and services is becoming scandalous. But NCLR is not at fault alone.

I received the following information from my good friend Marisa Treviño, publisher of one of the best Hispanic news and political websites,

MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE) -- "Nominees for the first ever annual “Tecate Premios Deportes” (Tecate Sports Awards) were announced today by Univision."

Tecate is an alcoholic product. The awards sponsor is Heineken USA and FEMSA Cerveza. FEMSA is the largest integrated beverage company in Latin America.

Use of this kind of moneyby Latino institutions just reinforces the stereotypes about all Hispanics. And the reality of politically damaging DUI accidents that take lives has a ravaging ripple effect. These accidents also take away the freedoms and hopes of many Hispanics who have come to this nation to better their lives. Heinous programs like the 287(g) deportation process in Nashville amass political support with every drink tied to every accident tied to every advertisement telling Latinos to have a good time by getting loaded.

Marketing disclaimers by alcohol businesses for Latinos to drink responsibly are a joke. But the taking of money by Hispanic organizations claiming to fight for our civil rights and keeping us informed is a serious matter.

NCLR and Univision know better about the damage being done in Hispanic communties by alcohol. And if they don't, then they have no reason to claim any kind of contribution to the welfare of Latinos everywhere.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Too much alcohol on NCLR's breath

Not content to take sponsorship money from beer companies to run its upcoming annual convention, the National Council of La Raza has gone further in taking $250,000 from a big-time liquor business.

Hispanic PR Wire reports: The donation to NCLR is a culmination of the We are United with a Purpose(TM) campaign, now in its third year, which assisted hundreds of Latinos to access financial education resources within their local community.

After this year, the campaign, supported by Diageo brands including Buchanan's(R) De Luxe Scotch whisky, Crown Royal(R) Canadian whisky, Johnnie Walker(R) Scotch whisky, Jose Cuervo(R) Tradicional tequila, and Tequila Don Julio(R), has invested nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to helping improve the lives of Latinos throughout the United States.

One of this year's campaign beneficiaries is Clara Rinaldi, 36, who immigrated from Ecuador and lives in Union City, New Jersey with her husband and two children. "She learned about the campaign and local seminars through her sister-in-law and decided to attend since she had little knowledge about how to budget, save, or establish credit," (Janet) Murguia continued. (She is president of NCLR.)

Would the NAACP take sponsorships from gun manufacturers? Of course not. There have been too many shooting deaths in African-American communities. Then why is NCLR so oblivious in its thinking in taking liquor and beer money.

Come with me to Nashville, Music City. The tune being played here is a sorrowful one for more than 3,000 Latinos deported under the heinous 287(g) deportation program during the past year. Families are being devastated. Children live in fear of parents being taken. The local sheriff was able to get the political support to bring local enforcement of federal immigrations laws to Nashville because of DUI accidents in which Latinos killed native Tennesseans on the road.

What were these undocumented workers drinking? Was it Corona, which is peddling a new ad campaign to Latinos nationally that touts its product as a source of Hispanic pride? Was it beers from Miller Brewing Co. and Coors, both contributors to NCLR's national convention next month? Or was it one of liquors distributed by the company that just gave $250,000 to NCLR?

It's not enough that such businesses have marginal marketing programs encouraging Latinos not to drink too much. They know the statistics of sorrow from their products in Hispanic communities such as Houston.

While the money given NCLR is helping hundreds financially, it is hurting thousands personally just in Nashville. Wait until Sen. Elizabeth Dole gets her wish of 287(g) for all of North Carolina. The inhumanity will be multiplied.

Meanwhile, NCLR is licking its fingers as it counts all the damning dollars from the beer and liquor companies. The immorality of it all is sickening, cheap and dirty. It's past time for NCLR to stop taking alcohol-related money made from encouraging reckless conduct in Hispanic communities across this nation.

Or it's time for Hispanic advocates to stop supporting NCLR.

Reject military sponsors, too

Roberto Lovato, a colleague in Hispanic advocacy, rightly says that criticism of beer companies being patronized by the National Council of La Raza for sponsorship bucks should not ignore another problem: the Pentagon and the military's hard-sell campaign to young Latinos.

Hispanics are disportionately serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. San Antonio is the most successful city for recruiting numbers. Arab media likes to ridicule this nation's use of so many "Green Card" soldiers. Why don't more Anglo and African-American U.S. citizens want to serve if the cause is so right?

Don't mistake this analysis for any kind of disparagement of our soldiers and their heroics in Afghanistan and Iraq. Disproportionate Latino military numbers include my nephew in the Navy and my cousin as a major in Army communications. Both are returning to Iraq soon. I volunteer with a Marine families group here in Tennessee to send care packages overseas. Members of our military secure my freedom to write this blog. They take an oath to lay down their lives to protect the Constitution of this nation. As a journalist, I've never taken such an oath.

Yet I don't understand how the Bush administration can so heavily recruit Latinos on one hand and then treat their loved ones so cruelly in inhumane ICE raids on workplaces, 287(g) deportation programs in cities like Nashville and a general smear of all Latinos -- citizens or not. Bush's party has blocked immigration reform in favor of punitive measures. How can Latinos fight for someone else's security overseas and leave their loved ones at home to such disrepect and mistreatment?

Because they have a lot of historical experience. My Uncle Salvador was a middle gunner on a B-17 in WWII. Only one person on the crew of 10 welcomed him. Yet he served heroically. When their plane was shot up over Holland, he rescued two of his supposed comrades who had been wounded. He got them out of the plane while pulling their chutes. Meanwhile, he didn't get out in time to avoid a usually fatal crash landing.

He survived and was hidden by the Dutch Underground. His story will be the subject of a future blog post. But when he returned home to the United States, Salvador Chavez was still considered a Mexican and not an American hero. Now at 86 years of age, he gets invitations to join the VFW and other veteran organizations. He declines. They didn't want him back then. Why do they want him now?

Salvador Chavez is a Mexican hero living in the United States -- but not by his own choice.

So yes, my colleague makes an excellent point. The military in this current conflict should be kept away from young Latinos. Their sponsorship money should be rejected. Those brothers and sisters who want to use military service to gain legal residence and citizenship, however, should not be disparaged.

Hispanic economic power is diverse enough to support our causes. We don't need the money from the military risking young lives overseas for an administration mistreating their loved ones here at home. And the beer and liquor companies should be rejected for the poison they're peddling in our communities that puts us at such a social and political disadvantage.

Bill, we hardly knew ye

Gov. Phil Bredesen wins again. Damn.

Potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Purcell says he is going to Harvard University. He has a great gig in heading the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Alas, he is needed more here to redirect and revive the Tennessee Democratic Party. But the party sadly belongs to Bredesen and his deep pockets. And with Purcell's departure, the governor now will (unofficially) pick the Democratic nominee to run against former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2010.

Heaven help this state's most vulnerable citizens.

I listened to Bredesen speak Monday to the Nashville Rotary Club as penance for my sins. I did, however, get to meet a hero of mine, attorney Gregg Ramos. Yet Bredesen's speech was that of a myth-maker for his own persona than a real leader for all. I'll blog later on his incredible claims about little impact to the poor from his TennCare cuts and his claim to be a champion of education.

O.K., I can't hold it. Does anyone remember his failed Core Curriculum initiative in Nashville Public Schools that forced children to keep up or fall out? I know Sister Sandra Smithson does. We talked constantly about it and lamented the price being paid by young minds already disadvantaged by the circumstances of their environment. Now they became political victims. Bredesen's eight years as mayor of Nashville are a big reason why the public schools are one year away from falling under state control through President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

His bragging about his Pre-K program as governor may reassure his conscience. But we lost a whole generation of children at risk during Bredesen's eight years as mayor. We can't really go back and rescue them all as today's single parents and prisoners. And the cruel cycle goes on. That analysis is not liberal or conservative. It's just reality.

Yet no one on Monday or any other day was going to tell the emperor he had no clothes. I don't blame folks. Bredesen wouldn't have believed it anyway.

Purcell -- Bredesen's successor who had to clean up a lot of fiscal and public policy messes in Nashville -- deserves the great opportunity at Harvard. He is the kind of leader who should be training this nation's next generation of politicos to look first to the needs of the people and not those of Michael Dell and Bud Adams.

His gain, however, is our terrible loss. And the Democratic Party in Tennessee will become even more unrecognizable for its lack of values, passion and ideals compared to the national one.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Go to -- now, please

John Lamb's provocative website Hispanic Nashville is playing host to one of the most meaningful columns I've written in my life.

It's about Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville and the effort to raise funds to keep it open past the June 30 deadline to pay off its debt.

In the column, you'll find:

* The story of how Our Lady's brought together 6-year-old Elizabeth and 81-year-old Vita -- separated by history, ethnicity and age but united in a love for the Holy Mother of God.

* My rebuke to Nashville's TV news media and particularly NewsChannel 5's anchor/reporter Scott Arnold for missing Sunday's "Thank You" Open House at Our Lady's for native Nashvillians. Local TV news apparently prefers negative stories about the growing Hispanic presence and ignores those of hope and accomplishment.

* The amazing gifts from two affluent Williamson County churches for a Davidson County place of worship serving the working poor.

* How you can still contribute and be a part of the miracle that is Our Lady's in Nashville.

Please click on and read about all this and more. And leave a comment of thanks to John Lamb for providing the space and energy to publicize this postive news and the continuing need.

Hispanics can be their own worst enemy


Forget about Lou Dobbs.

Sometimes, Hispanics can be their own worst enemy. Consider the upcoming national convention for the National Council of La Raza(NCLR). Its leadership is rightly crowing over Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama appearing before their membership in July to signify the importance of the Hispanic vote.

But NCLR is setting an incredibly poor example for a civil rights organization in taking sponsorship money from alcohol-related businesses Miller Brewing Co. and Coors.

Allowing beer companies to have a prominent place at a convention advocating a better life and treatment for Hispanics is like Mothers Against Drunk Driving inviting the maker of Jack Daniels to set up a booth at the next MADD gathering.

Here in Nashville, the local sheriff used two incidents of drunk driving offenses by Hispanic drivers to mass the political support to bring the heinous 287(g) deportation program to Davidson County. The incidents resulted in the traffic deaths of native Tennesseans in the other cars.

So in the past year, more than 3,000 undocumented workers have been deported by the initial action of local authorities. And the anti-immigrant crowd is crowing. Families have been devastated. Children live in fear that the fathers they kiss goodbye in the morning will not return that evening, or for months of evenings, or years.

Hispanics here are arrested for simple traffic offenses of driving with a broken headlight or ordinary offenses like fishing without a license. When the undocumented workers cannot produce needed ID with picture -- since Tennessee revoked its law allowing driver's licenses to undocumented workers -- police arrest the Hispanics and book them.

That's the law for anyone who police do not believe will show up in court to pay for a traffic or other offense. The police are not at fault here; it's the local sheriff who then takes the name and fingerprints of offenders to see if they're legally in this country.

When he discovers they're not here legally, he calls La Migra and keeps the undocumented workers until the Feds can come and take these heads of households to detention places unknown. As Father Joseph Patrick Breen of St. Edward Catholic Church says: "We would not treat animals this way."

Every time the TV news has a story about a DUI arrest after a crash, I say a silent prayer that it not be a Latino, particularly an undocumented worker. Who knows how much further the sheriff will go in his mistreatment of Hispanics?

The sheriff initially sold the program as a way to deport undocumented workers with a criminal background. But in the past year, the great majority of people arrested and deported did not have a criminal record. And now the sheriff denies he ever mentioned that only undocumented workers with a criminal background would be deported. And my former employer, The Tennessean, will not come out editorially against the program. Cowardice is everywhere when it comes to the inhumanity aimed at Hispanics.

Go to to read more from the brave Latina blogger who pointed out La Raza's wrongheadedness to me. In political writing, I've come to find that the Latinas are the most courageous in speaking the truth. There are other most worthy blogs to read like and These writers remind me of my marvelous mother, who loved politics and speaking her mind. She got me into political writing, and we used to talk daily about local and national politics.

Criticizing La Raza is not politically correct amid the Hispanic advocacy crowd. We're told to keep things quiet, to support each other, not tear one another down. Besides, Hispanic organizations need all the sponsoring money they can get to push a progressive agenda.

Sorry, my colleagues, but we don't need the money of beer makers just like African-Americans don't need another liquor store in their neighborhoods. For the past 45 days, I've raised $135,520 to help keep open our new Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Nashville. That's some solid cash, and I didn't have to go to any beer company.

Besides, our parents and grandparents taught us better by example. We should never sacrifice what's right for what's expedient. NCLR should sober up and not take the beer company money, just as Sen. Obama is rejecting the lobbyist money.

For the rest of us, quit worrying about Lou Dobbs. Let's first focus on ourselves. And let us not be afraid to speak the truth, even to the National Council of La Raza.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Still stuck on Pelosi for Obama ticket

Even though no political pundit has mentioned her name, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains the best choice as VP for Sen. Barack Obama's ticket.

And the stakes are now much higher for her selection with the mounting national security problem of Israel conducting a dry run on knocking out Iran's nuclear bomb capability. The Middle East could become a bigger mess and transform $4 a gallon for gas into the good ol' days.

I take new motivation for going out on the political limb from a conversation I had today with two female voters under 40 in the checkout line at Harris-Teeter. They voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton. While already being a bit leery about Obama's depth of experience, they're now most concerned about national security. And that gives McCain an edge in their minds.

So I trotted out Pelosi's name to them. Initially they responded that putting a woman into the vice presidency would not be enough to vote for Obama. But when I cited Pelosi's national security experience, they were enthused.

Pelosi has been to Syria, Iraq and Tibet. She has received confidential national security briefings all this decade. She has driven the effort in the House to stop the Iraq war.

Naysayers who laugh at my audacity to think beyond the Sunday morning political punditry say that Pelosi doesn't want to leave the House with all the seats the Democrats will pick up in the general election. She'll be even more powerful than before.

Then there is her age. She's just a few years behind John McCain. So she'll have no chance to follow Obama after four or eight years. Why give up a sure thing for the possibility of not winning in the general election?

But if she is a loyal Democrat committed to change, she'll accept the VP nod because Obama needs a lot of help to get elected. The experience question about Obama will not go away, even if he picks first-term Sen. Webb of Virginia or long-forgotten Sen. Sam Nunn. Any of the female governors available won't bring any national security experience.

Gov. Bill Richardson, who has tons of foreign policy experience, has the baggage of being and looking Hispanic. Running on a ticket with another minority would be a nightmare for too many white voters. Change is one thing, but that would be ... well, unimaginable, even for an Oliver Stone movie. Some folks are looking for an excuse not to vote for a black man. Putting a brown man with Obama will seal the sentiment at the ballot box.

Pelosi can be replaced in the House to lead the Democratic majority. As Senate president, she'll wield power before that body as a tie-breaking vote and can ram through Obama's legislative agenda in both houses from a Capitol office. She also is Catholic, which will help Obama in the must-win states of Ohio and Pennsylvania and with Mexican-American voters in the West swing states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

There's another intangible that makes her choice a real possibility. Caroline Kennedy is part of Obama's VP selection group. She has distinguished herself in the Democratic primary season. And she has the inherited insight to produce a visionary, effective choice.

But none of the Beltway pundits are mentioning Pelosi as a possibility. Does that automatically dismiss her as a choice, or make her chances even better? The female voters in the Harris-Teeter checkout line give me the confidence to continue out on the political limb.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Purcell needs to rescue TN Democratic Party --- Now

Will someone please step forward and rescue the Tennessee Democratic Party before or soon after the 2008 general election?

And that someone needs to be former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell in announcing his intention to run for governor in 2010. Start collecting the campaign donations. Get the bumper stickers printed. Create a website.

Or else.

Things with Tennessee Democrats have really gotten embarrassing and offensive. Every state should have at least a strong two-party system to offer voters a choice. But all that's available in Tennessee is Republican conservative and a Democrat with a prominent elephant's trunk.

On a statewide platform, that only leaves Purcell and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen as leaders representing a true and progressive Democrat besides a needed choice for Tennesseans.

The Lincoln Davis dust-up -- originally reported by The City Paper and its star political reporter John Rodgers -- is just the latest pie-in-the-face moment for Tennessee Democrats. If you've been on Mars or in Oklahoma for the past week as I've been, you missed U.S. Rep. Davis' refusal to endorse Sen. Barack Obama until the convention later this summer. You also missed Fred Hobbs of the state Democratic Party's executive committee citing possible terrorist ties to Obama. And Davis' spokesperson replied that he didn't know if Obama had terrorist connections, but assumed not. Chief of Staff Beecher Fraiser later amended his statement to say he was now sure Obama didn't have terrorist ties. He must have Googled "Obama" and "terrorist".

If all this mess wasn't bad enough, the state party then had the idiocy of issuing a statement criticizing the Republicans for making note and fun of the obvious dysfunction in the Democratic Party. The ridiculous statement even summoned the ghost of Richard Nixon to try and spin the Davis & Friends embarrassment. Sorry, Gray, but you don't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.

GOP muckraker Bill Hobbs, a fine blogger and opportunistic political mind, couldn't have made this kind of stuff up to do more damage to Tennessee Democrats.

Now before anyone thinks that Davis is just an oddity among Democrats, consider that Gov. Phil Bredesen already told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton would be a hard sell in Tennessee. He recounted a Deliverance-like encounter with four men in a booth in an east Tennessee eatery. Where I come from, four men don't sit together in a booth so we can maintain our masculine distance. Perhaps these quadruplets were Metrosexuals.

Bredesen calls himself a Democrat, but he really is a DINO, a Democrat In Name Only and a Flintstones' dinosaur when it comes to progressive public policy.

Nashville, where Bredesen served as mayor and still lives, should be the home of progressive politics. It has Vanderbilt University, which features a politically involved student body and brilliant academic and medical minds. North and east Nashville have a strong African-American history and presence, built around great places of worship and courageous leaders like the Rev. Enoch Fuzz of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church. Then there are universities like TSU and Fisk and Meharry medical school.

So why is this progressive place represented by someone like U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, who was on stage earlier this year with "Congressman Marsha Blackburn" and Sen. Lamar Alexander. They touted the effectiveness of the heinous 287(g) deportation programs aimed at tearing apart Hispanic working families. Cooper nor anyone with the state Democratic Party has offered an explanation for his outrageous presence. The supposed Nashville Democrat should just cede his seat over to Blackburn so that taxpayers can at least save on staff costs.

Where is the fire and passion that should be part of progressive politics, ensuring our community is only as strong as the care and help we provide to the weakest among us? Al Gore rightly is focused globally and actually is in a position to be more effective than a president of the United States in saving the world. So don't expect him to waste time on something so small as saving the Tennessee Democratic Party to his already lofty task.

Tragically, Rep. Davis is considering a run for governor, which will further dilute the Democratic Party brand in Tennessee. On the GOP side, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will probably run and win unless a real Democrat and a real choice for voters can be found.

Purcell is the only choice. He distinguished himself as a different Democrat following the fiscal foolishness of the Bredesen years. He returned government to neighborhoods and schools, putting them first on the budget priority list. Michael Dell and Bud Adams had to wait their turn. Purcell also carries the important Vanderbilt connection with his work there between serving in the General Assembly and running for mayor.

Cohen also is a Democrat of distinction, but he has to first survive the Ford political machine again in Memphis and win re-election this November. Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who lost in his bid for the U.S. Senate, has been talking up Bredesen as a running mate for Obama. And we thought his relative in the state Senate was a tad peculiar. Sadly, Bredesen even thinks he is on Obama's short list of potential running mates. How can someone who kicked so many people off TennCare -- resulting in deaths -- be the running mate for a lead candidate who wants to provide a path toward universal health care?

Help cannot come too soon for Tennessee Democrats and the people of this state who need a sane and real choice at the ballot box. Besides, why make Bill Hobbs and the GOP's job so easy in 2008?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Help a Marine who protected our freedoms

As I wrote on Memorial Day, my freedom to write is preserved by the willingness of men and women to take an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America.

They leave their homes and families and are willing to lay down their lives for our rights. We owe these men and women more than any salary or benefits or welcome home celebration can re-pay.

In recognition of our debt to these men and woman, I am offering Middle Tennessee the opportunity to employ a Marine after four years of service. Troy Loveless was a photographer at Parris Island, and apparently was so good at what he did that his requests to go to Iraq were denied.

His type of photography was investigative, weddings, documentary, sports, etc. The depressed economy and downturn in the mainstream news media have resulted in few opportunities for Loveless to pursue his photography career. This fall, he'll attend the Watkins School of Art to boost his skills.

This man deserves a chance, if not for his talent, then for his service to keep us free. Please send me an e-mail at if you have an opportunity or job lead for Loveless. I can also forward you his resume, and he can call to set up an appointment for you to look at his portfolio.

Your workplace would be made more special with the presence of a Marine, who already knows about sacrifice, mission and teamwork. All he needs now is a chance.

Check gas prices tomorrow morning ... and the excuses

The price of a barrel of oil dropped by $4 today. Now if the opposite had happened, we would have experienced higher gas prices by evening. But my nearby, local gas station still had its price at $3.99 per gallon.

What gives?

I'll give the station owner a little time to adapt. But I expect the price to be at $3.95 per gallon tomorrow morning. If it's not, I'm going inside the station to ask why. You should do the same at your favorite place to get gas. The $3.99 ceiling was set about two weeks ago when the price of a barrel of oil rose $11 in one day.

I still believe the conspiracy behind higher gas prices just isn't with oil companies, although they do own some gas stations. Others are owned by regional and local franchises. And they've used every daily rise in the price of a barrel of oil to hike prices by evening. The reverse just doesn't seem to happen with the same regularity.

So by tomorrow morning, the price of a gallon of gas should be noticably lower where you live. If it's not, ask why and e-mail me the answer so we can compare excuses. E-mail me at

We need to break up this conspiracy. And it needs to start at the local level.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And the winner is ...

With all the talk by the mainstream news media about how both presidential campaigns deeply desire the Hispanic vote, I conducted a test.

Words are the most worthless of curriencies in an election. Action and a record of action, no matter how small, mean the most.

So I recently contacted both campaigns as a member of the Hispanic news media, asking to sign up for press releases -- on issues in general and those messages aimed at Latinos.

I have to admit that I gave Sen. Barack Obama's campaign a little advantage. I endorsed Obama in the Hispanic press before the Texas primary on the Democratic side. On the GOP side, I didn't endorse because Sen. John McCain had all but clinched the nomination.

On June 6, I sent an e-mail to Vincent Casillas, Hispanic media outreach coordinator for the Obama campaign. I entitled the e-mail: signing up for Obama campaign e-mail messages. I attached columns I had written in Hispanic newspapers from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco about Obama. I wrote the columns as a regular political contributor to Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. Columns are distributed over the Scripps Howard News Service.

On June 13 (last Friday), I just called the McCain campaign in Washington after hours, at around 8 p.m. EDT.

A person in the press office happened to answer, and I gave her the information about who I was and how I wanted to sign up for McCain campaign press releases.

So Monday, I received the first campaign e-mail.

From whom?

Sen. John McCain's campaign.

Action -- even so small -- is much more meaningful than words and promises. Meanwhile, Mr. Casillas with the Obama campaign has been speaking to the mainstream press about how Sen. Obama used Spanish in a campaign ad.

Big deal! Even members of La Migra can speak Spanish. That doesn't make them friends.

The Obama campaign continues to make a huge political mistake. It continues to take the Hispanic electorate for granted. And to earn the respect of that electorate, a big investment of time and energy is necessary. Our elders like my Uncle Salvador -- a B-17 middle gunner and World War II hero -- carry a lot of clout in our communities and in our hearts. They've seen and heard a lot of candidates speak in Spanish with flowery promises. They won't be convinced by anything but respect. Yet Obama continues to waste precious time to show needed respect. He is going to lose enough of the Hispanic vote to allow Sen. McCain to win the presidency by taking New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

Meanwhile, the Hispanic blogosphere still wants Hillary Clinton as the nominee. They can't understand why the Obama campaign has yet to get its act together in regards to the Latino electorate. So why don't we just vote for McCain now so we'll get Sen. Clinton in four years? She knows and respects Hispanics from her work registering Latino voters in the 1970s in south Texas. She has invested the necessary time and energy.

Now, granted, I am a nobody when it comes to Hispanic-American journalists. I'm no longer at a mainstream newspaper of record after 10 years as a political columnist for The Tennessean in Nashville.

But I do have a lot of Mexican-American relatives in 11 states across this nation -- including Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Mexico. And I force them to read my political blog and ask them to pass the web address onto their friends. The Internet is an amazing thing. I promise to give them coverage of Latino issues not available in the mainstream media, particularly on TV political pundit panels and newspaper Op-Ed pages.

Perhaps Obama's hesitancy with the Hispanic electorate is rooted in worthless guarantees from Hispanic politicians. Here is one certain truth: no Latino politico or politicos have the ability to bring around Hispanic voters. We are individuals, diverse by nationality and the kind of beans we eat -- black or pinto.

The Democratic Party as of late has too often taken the Hispanic electorate for granted. In the year 2000, then Gore deputy campaign manager Janet Murguia sought me out after critical columns I had written about Democrats and Gore for leaving immigrant children in Nashville public schools behind. Murguia -- who had come from the Clinton White House to the Gore campaign -- promised to look into the situation and stir federal education officials to do their job.

That promise was the last I heard from her. Either the Clinton administration failed her or she thought I could be impressed enough by meeting with someone so important. I took great satisfaction in Gore losing his home state and the presidency, despite his own campaign headquarters being located in Nashville.

And in the first six months of his administration, President George W. Bush sent federal officials into Nashville schools and declared the district to be out of compliance with a civil rights agreement on the adequate education of immigrant children. Then we got No Child Left Behind which took the education of Hispanic children out of the shadows.

Don't worry. Murguia survived, becoming head of the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic civil rights organization. But I won't forget what happened with immigrant children in Nashville and who cared and who didn't.

That's why tests -- even as small as signing up for e-mail press releases from campaigns -- are important.

I agree with Sen. Obama on more issues than Sen. McCain. But McCain's name was on the last bipartisan immigration reform legislation. He shared top billing with the great Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Some Hispanic advocates claim that McCain has flip-flopped on the immigration issue to impress party conservatives. That's why he is demanding border security first. And he has the albatross of xenophobic Republican politicians hungry for more punitive treatment of undocumented workers and their families. The Bush administration has allowed the Department of Homeland Security to demean and damage Hispanic families with punitive raids of workplaces and deportation powers put in the hands of local authorities, like those in Nashville where I live.

But which political choice should Hispanic voters prefer: to be ignored as in the Obama and Gore campaigns, or to be pursued as in Sen. McCain's campaign?

I can't negotiate on issues with someone who ignores me. And I can't expect a candidate who ignores me to be around when the time comes for action. Obama also could have been the force to bridge the black-brown political divide in this nation. At least that's what I hoped in endorsing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. But the divide can't be bridged if the brown side is ignored and disrespected. It now appears my endorsement was wrong.

I haven't endorsed anyone for the general election. But Obama is making my choice a lot easier. I may not even have to endorse a candidate, because Obama will have already lost enough support from the Hispanic electorate in key states to rightly doom his campaign. McCain is within six percentage points of Bush's take of the Latino electorate in 2000.

Latinos are patient people amid all struggles. Maybe we'll just wait for Sen. Clinton four years from now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Solidly undecided on Prez race

I spent Friday afternoon talking at length to my mother's attorney, who is a lifelong Democrat and former starter on the Vanderbilt University football team.

Besides a love for my mother who went to heaven nine days ago, we share a deep admiration for Lt. Robert Kalsu, Jr. He was an offensive tackle and All-America at the University of Oklahoma and a standout in his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills. Unlike other professional football players, when his National Guard unit was activated to go to war, he went onto the battlefield.

He said he was no better than any other man. He believed he must serve when asked for love of country.

With the 101st Airborne based out of Ft. Campbell, Ky., he headed an atillery unit in Vietnam. And he was killed while carrying 100-pound artillery shells on his shoulders to enable his men to return fire on the enemy. Lt. Kalsu also died on the day his son was born.

For those of us who lived in Del City, OK., and attended St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church there along with Kalsu's parents, this loss hit hard. Robert Kalsu, Jr., became my first hero in my young life. He remains there in my mind and heart now.

It is because of Lt. Kalsu that my mom's attorney and I want to make sure a president is elected who will make sure that the kind of sacrifice like Kalsu's will not be in vain. For me, I believe this war must end soon. This nation cannot fiscally afford this conflict and morally cannot afford the sacrifice of more lives, particularly those of innocent civilians. Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan continues to escalate, and the hunt for Osama bin Laden must be made there.

This war should end in a way that preserves the sanctity of the sacrifice made by American men and women there, while acknowledging that members the Iraqi army must be the ones to secure the country.

My Mom's attorney says he wishes Sen. Barack Obama was eight years older and Sen. John McCain was eight years younger. Then, the choice would be easier, he said.

For me, Obama has not made the needed overtures to the Hispanic-American electorate. He has yet to show it the kind of respect that would be recognized, particularly by our elders. Although a Wall Street Journal poll showed him leading 62% to 28% against McCain among Hispanic voters, all that McCain needs to reach George W. Bush's 2000 take of the Latino vote is only 7 more percentage points. That is doable.

Sen. McCain must overcome some members of his own political party who have gone xenophobic in their action against undocumented workers. Meanwhile, our seaports remain virtually unguarded for things like dirty bombs that terrorists could smuggle in.

So, I, too, remain undecided in my choice for president. Other Americans are in the same situation, which does not bode well for Obama who still must sell himself to vast segments of the American people.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Can't support a hypocrite

I returned home from burying my good and very politically oriented mother and discovered a leaflet on our porch from "Congressman Marsha Blackburn". She was asking for our votes in the 7th Congressional District race based on her record.

Early primary voting begins July 18.

Blackburn, the incumbent and darling of the Extreme Right, has to send out leaflets about the primary because she has drawn a Republican opponent for the party's nomination.

She's in trouble. She has greviously violated the most sacred trust between supporter and candidate: she mismanaged the money that working people gave her campaigns and used the money to financially benefit her family members.

This kind of stuff really stinks. It's Big Boss politics that demands "do as I say, not as I do".

As a Williamson County voter, I can't support a politician who condemns others for mismanaging public money and betraying the public trust when money under her direct control is initially not reported according to the law and used to pad the pockets of family members. Her campaign committee has received 33 letters from the Federal Election Commission pointing out 90 possible mistakes in her campaign finance reports over three campaigns, showed an investigation by Gannett News Service.

The "congressman" -- her preference -- defends herself by saying she initiated this revisiting of previously unreported campaign contributions. About $19,000 of those contributions went to her daughter and son-in-law and their company for work in her campaigns, she claims. But her GOP opponent, Tom Leatherwood, hired an audit firm to review her finances. It found more than $100,000 in campaign money directed to her family's gain, according to reporting by The Tennessean.

Blackburn is a political hypocrite of the worst kind. If she is re-elected, she will return to Congress severely compromised for her apparent failure to properly report campaign contributions in a timely manner by FEC rules. Her effectiveness for the people of the 7th District such as myself will be curtailed, and rightly so. Even for Congress, her failures are beyond blush. And they are reminiscent of the financial difficulties she had as head of the state film office. We had been warned.

The "congressman" has failed her own test by which she measured other elected leaders. She has violated the public trust. The "congressman" may live in my same city and county, but I feel no loyalty to her. She is the kind of politician my good mother taught me to fight.

And I'd appreciate it if her campaign would keep its propaganda off my porch. Besides, trash day isn't until Thursday.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saying goodbye to a marvelous friend

I return to Tennessee today without any sense of accomplishment, only loss. Deep loss. Wounding loss. Loss that will never go away despite a flood of reassurances and sincere statements of consolation.

I've had to say goodbye a most marvelous friend and the most influential person in my life, Vita Hernandez Chavez.

She was so much more than a mother. She was a ciitzen of the world, who loved people and politics -- which by its definition is of the people. As much as love her, I respected and admired her.

She got me involved in political writing and her name was taken inside the Oval Office, to the Attorney General's office and on the 2004 campaign trail to Los Angeles and then Democratic Party presidential nominee John Kerry. He received her personal endorsement and responded with appreciation. I told then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that Momma hated his boss. He laughed. Then I added, "but she loves you." To that, he told his assistant to get him a picture that he could autograph personally for my mother and send to her. It was a nice gesture, and perhaps a private acknowledgement that he had learned to hate his boss, too, after Guantanamo Bay, the torture memo and the firing of the U.S. attorneys.

I always was proud to call myself a "momma's boy." That is what I was. And that is what I will remain.

In her final years, after losing her husband of 55 years, Vita Hernandez Chavez faced her most severe adversity in battling the lifelong scars of diabetes. This malady continues to wreak disproportional havoc on Hispanics. We've got to a better job of helping our elders battle this disease. But that's for another column post.

Today's piece is for my mother and her incredible legacy of family and faith, achievement amid so much adversity because of the color of her skin and the poverty of her beginnings.

She put all of her soul into her children -- myself and my two brothers, Gerald and Mike. We all are better people because of her, particularly from the example she showed in her fight in the last years of her life.

We believe she has returned to heaven, and is there with my father, her mother Luz Olmos Hernandez and her three fine sisters, Rita, Mary and Pauline.

That belief is consolation in her parting. Yet selfishly, I must confess it is not enough for me. The loss of her marvelous presence is just too high a price to pay. But we accept, because that was the faith in God she gave to us and lived most preciously in her final years.

Goodbye Momma. Thank you for a life lived so heriocally and so marvelously. I will never forget, and I will never cease to mourn.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Obama rightly stand behind 'No Child'

When it comes to public education reforms, Sen. Barack Obama still is standing behind the "No Child Left Behind Act".

And that's the right thing to do from my reporting and column writing experience in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Obama doesn't want to scrub 'No Child'. Sen. Clinton did. He just wants more money for it. He knows the nation's public education bureaucracy is just as dangerous to children as the corporate lobbyists are to change in Washington, D.C.

Thanks, Sen. Obama, for sticking true to your principles of change and risking the ire of the public education lobby and its big bucks. Latino children will be among the biggest beneficiaries from your position.

President Bush lacked the political capital to make the 'No Child' reforms more effective. He let states water them down. With a more Democratic Congress in 2009, Obama can take 'No Child' where Bush couldn't.

McCain getting head start with Latino voters

Sen. Barack Obama still is falling behind in appealing to Latino voters despite getting the endorsement today from Sen. Hillary Clinton.

This week, GOP presumptive nominee John McCain put Spanish language ads out into the presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the Obama's campaign still is puttting his Hispanic outreach efforts together. Perhaps he can bring over Clinton's outreach staff that did so well with Mexican-American voters now that she has suspended her campaign.

But Hispanic advocates across the country are getting antsy waiting for Obama staff reinforcements. Before heading overseas to build his foreign policy credentials over the coming weeks, Obama might want to take much more time here with an electorate still being ignored.

Polls still show Obama attracting much bigger numbers of Hispanic voters. But all McCain needs is another 5 or 6 percent more of the Latino electorate to reach GW Bush's haul in 2000. And Obama still must make a speech addressing the black/brown political divide in this country. Don't be fooled. It is real.

Really investigating rising gas prices

Here's what needs to be investigated about rising gas prices ... and it's not just record profits by Exxon or Mobil.

At our local gas station on Friday morning before the financial markets opened, a gallon of gas was selling for $3.87 per gallon. And that was despite a week in which the price for a barrel of oil had been drifting down to just below $124.

Talk of the economy rebounding and oil coming under control had resulted in a 200-point plus gain in the Dow on Thursday. But gas prices stayed steady.

In one day, on Friday, as a barrel of oil spiked by $11, the local gas station immediately boosted its price by 10-cents to $3.97 a gallon. Poor job numbers for the U.S. economy set off the turmoil and dropped the Dow by 397 points.

Fine. But why raise gas prices by 10-cents a gallon in one day but keep them at $3.87 for all the previous days of week -- when the price of a barrel of oil has been drifting down? I don't believe station owners when they say their hands are tied.

Just as the speculators who are driving up oil prices in the financial markets, local gas station owners and franchises are taking advantage of the hysteria over this roller coaster and pushing outrageous, one-day gas spikes.

Does every local station have to buy gas for its pumps on that single day?

Can't they wait until Monday when the price for a barrel of oil may come down?

There is more to this gouging of the public than Exxon and Mobil making record profits. Other players below the surface are fueling this game. Investigations by the news media and the government need to start at the bottom and work their way up.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Silly, silly TN Democrats

Gov. Phil Bredesen took a gigantic leap of faith yesterday in using his superdelegate vote to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president.

And that was only 12 hours after Obama had claimed the presumptive nomination following news media tabulations in a worldwide speech from St. Paul, MN.

Bredesen, with a straight face in this down-home Profile in Courage, told a lemming-like TV news media that he was working to unify the party behind Obama and spoke with guarded optimism of the chances of the Democratic ticket in Tennessee.

The whole farce of a gathering at Swett's was something out of a Saturday Night Live skit, yet these Democratic Party leaders were quite serious in their gathering. I've sat next to state Dem party chair Gray Sasser on Bob Mueller's TV panels. He seems like a real intelligent guy. And he has got great hair.

But Tennessee Democrats act in such a strange and hypocritical fashion. And their conduct, or perhaps lack of direction in their conduct, builds credibility under their TN GOP counterparts and their chief muckraker Bill Hobbs. (And Bill, I use the word "muckraker" in its affectionate, historical journalistic term.)

The national news media is learning, as the local media has only caught on this year, that Bredesen is only about Bredesen. The governor, in selling his immediately scoffed-at superdelgate gathering earlier this spring, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he was going to have a tough time selling either Clinton or Obama in Tennessee. He recounted a Deliverance-like experience in a restaurant booth somewhere in SE Tennessee in which the four inhabitants asked if he was going to be supporting Hillary or the "Hussein" guy. Bredesen didn't mention anyone squealing like a pig at this poignant political encounter or the proficiency of the local establishment's banjo playing.

Tennessee Democrats, no matter if Bredesen is chasing his own tail to cover his own tail, are going to follow along. And it doesn't matter how silly the party looks. In the long run, however, it's terribly unfortunate for the most vulnerable in Tennessee that this state does not have a strong two-party system. It's also tough because Democrats here have only a slight resemblance to those on the regional or national scene, so you don't know who to turn to for help.

I can't close without at least giving Bredesen and House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh credit for blocking some incredibly nonsensical anti-immigrant bills coming from members of their own party and Tennessee Republicans. The one bill that would have required only English be spoken in the workplace would have negated the conviction of serial killer Paul Dennis Reid if it were the law several years ago. The only testimony that put Reid at the scene of murders at a local McDonalds was delivered by a Hispanic man who testified IN SPANISH to a Tennessee jury.

Yes, I realize that Bredesen may only be protecting the business lobby and not out of any sense of moral standing behind undocumented workers and their families. But you've got to take whatever political support you can get when it comes to the national persecution of people who like me and my abuelos.

Consider the case of Tennessee Democrat and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper. He joined with Republican congressional notables Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn in toasting the first year performance of the heinous 287(g) deportation program in Davidson County. The program originally was sold to the public to get criminals deported out of the undocumented population in Davidson County.

Now it has morphed into deporting all undocumented people, most who have had no criminal record at all. The only offense they commit is driving without a seatbelt or fishing without a license, and Poof, they're arrested and deported. Now, no one remembers the original promise to deport only the criminal element. And there's Jim Cooper backing this outrage on a Nashville stage with Blackburn and Alexander. I'm still waiting for an explanation from Cooper's office for that big mistake. Perhaps it's time for Nashville Democrats and liberals to begin searching for Cooper's replacement by the 2010 primary race. He has been in Washington long enough.

Tennessee Democrats are making it so easy for Hobbs and Tennessee Republicans. More ridiculous PR events like the gathering at Swett's won't require the TNGOP to break much of a sweat all the way into November.

Obama hasn't said much to older women, Hispanic voters

The best political experts in the country -- my extended family spread across nine states from coast to coast -- have concluded two things about Sen. Barack Obama and the success he needs with older female and Hispanic voters in November.

He hasn't expressed a whole lot of substance on the issues and passions tied to the votes of older women and Hispanics during the primary campaign. And his speech Tuesday night in St. Paul, MN., didn't help with those virtually ignored constituencies.

First, where is his mention of his mother in all his speeches, particularly in handing out thank yous?

He toasted his grandmother and his wife Tuesday night, but not his mother. Yes, she is departed but surely she had a massive impact on who he has become. Even NFL players point skyward to remember their departed mothers (and their God) after scoring touchdowns. Obama regularly mentions his father who deserted the family and has even written a book to him. Psychologists say that's normal. Sorry, but we as voters do want psychologists explaining our president's actions or inactions.

The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman has expressed these sentiments much more forcefully and eloquently than me. But it is bothersome, this oversight of his mother, about who she was and what values she reinforced in this candidate. Older women -- who know of the incredible obstacles of what it was to be a mother deserted by her husband in raising a child -- want to hear the story from Obama's perspective, at least more regularly. What did he learn from her experiences? What kind of discrimination did she face that he'll now champion to eradicate?

It won't matter how many times Sen. Hillary Clinton tells her supporters to support Obama after Saturday's concession. What her supporters need to hear must come from his mouth.

My mother got me into writing politics. We remain as much friends as mother and son. I cast my first vote with her. The first words she spoke after her stroke several years ago -- upon questioning by the nurse as to whether she knew where she was and what had happened to her -- were about hating President George W. Bush. Yet she adored then-AG Alberto Gonzales and accepted an autographed picture from him. I told Gonzales in a one-on-one interview that she hated his boss. He laughed. I'm sure he hated Bush sometimes, too.

No matter where I have lived in my career, I called her almost daily, and we'd discuss the day's political news in Oklahoma and across the country. My father would get so bored with our discussion that he'd hang up, and then she would really tell me what she thought about politics ... and him. This exercise wasn't about me being a good son. I needed her perspective in my writing and my thinking.

In his future stump speeches, Obama should introduce us to this mother as much as to himself.

As for Hispanic voters, Obama made no mention Tuesday night of the national persecution of people who look like us and our abuelos. ICE raids and 287(g) programs like here in Nashville have stigmatized all Hispanics, citizens or not. The human rights abuses are outrageous. Due process has been sacrificed, because undocumented workers can't read the applications in English waiving their rights to counsel and hearings -- where they could invoke their right to seek asylum from violence and/or political persecution in their homelands. Or to get a guest worker permit.

Read attorney Greg Siskind's blog post at It will shock you and further undercut the credibility of ranters and ravers like Lou Dobbs. Thanks John Lamb, again, for another great tip.

Yet Obama took no time Tuesday night to mention these wrongs, nor promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation in his first year in office. He also didn't promise -- as Clinton would when she would talk about her first day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- that he'd sign executive orders ending the ICE raids and the 287(g) programs.

Obama will have to state that promise emphatically and repeatedly in the days and months to come if he wants my vote and probably those of many other Hispanics. I truly hope he does that. We are weary of the national downbeat about our presence here, with GOP politicians making like Ringo Starr.

But if Obama is more concerned about white blue-collar votes in Ohio and Pennsylvania and doesn't want to make immigration reform a front-burner issue, then John McCain may take enough Hispanic votes to take the presidency. McCain carries some clout with Latinos for bucking his own party's attempt to pass only punitive immigration measures in Congress.

And Obama's historical candidacy will be just that -- history.