Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ouch! Former DNC chairman caught joking about Hurricane Gustav slamming U.S. tomorrow

While GOP presidential nominee John McCain today pulled all the balloons and festivities out from under this week's Republican National Convention, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee was caught joking about Hurricane Gustav making U.S. landfall tomorrow.

Gustav is the reason McCain literally deflated all the balloons slated to fall in St. Paul at the RNC. It would look bad to a national TV audience. But former Dem bigwig Don Fowler thought the timing to be quite funny.

To hear him, thanks to the Drudge Report and, click on:

Poor Sen. Barack Obama. The Democrat has had trouble with supposed supporters hurting his campaign with their loose tongues. Fowler sure didn't help Obama with his joke. Who in their right mind makes jokes about a hurricane about to destroy an American city?

What's worse, Fowler and film icon Michael Moore have said the hurricane's timing during the RNC shows God is on their political side. Of course, they made the comments in amusement. But all humor originates from someone's sense of reality -- twisted or not.

During World War I, the slogan to Americans was "loose lips sink ships" as German U-boats preyed on Allied shipping. Almost 100 years later, loose lips may cause the Obama campaign to take some unneeded hits as well.

A humanitarian tragedy threatens undocumented human beings in New Orleans as Gustav nears

The Associated Press reported yesterday that undocumented workers and their families are uncertain of whether to leave New Orleans due to previous threats by federal officials to use any hurriance evacuation procedures to screen for deportation.

This threat is indicative of the inhumanity that Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) has unleased the past several years on undocumented human beings in this nation under the Bush administration.

The Associated Press reported the following yesterday:

"Advocates have criticized the decision not to establish a shelter, warning that day laborers and the poorest residents will still fall through the cracks. As lines at bus stations kept building, about two dozen Hispanic men talked under oak trees near Claiborne Avenue, where on better days they would be waiting to be picked up for day labor.

"They'd been listening to Spanish radio and television but none of them knew what to do and were waiting for someone to come by and tell them, said Pictor Soto, 44, of Peru. Told they could take a bus at Union Passenger Terminal, they all shook their heads, fearful that immigration agents would be looking for them.

"'The problem is, there will be immigration people there and we're all undocumented,' Soto said."

Today, advocates for these human beings -- who responded by the hundreds of thousands to the call for laborers to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina -- said they had received assurances from ICE that evacuees would not be screened for deportation.

But undocumented workers know from experience that ICE's word is worthless.

So the nation's punitive policy toward undocumented workers and their families has put innocent human beings at risk as Hurricane Gustav prepares to explode upon the United States. It is incredibly sad and reprehensible that more people must suffer and potentially die before this nation and its government opens it eyes and turns if back on treating human beings so inhumanely.

God save these good people -- and this nation's policymakers.

Republican VP pick Palin survives first round of Sunday morning TV political talk shows; McCain announces scaled-back GOP convention

GOP VP pick Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska survived the first wave of news media scrutiny from Sunday morning political talk shows on the TV networks.

The conclusions from ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX media pundits were:

* Sen. John McCain has put all his chips in the presidential poker game with his choice of Palin. Recent polls are not indicative of the advantage Sen. Barack Obama still has in many battleground states and states that used to be solidly Republican. If Obama turns out young people in November, he wins by a landslide. So McCain had to gamble.

* So far, McCain's high stakes' move has worked in shaking up the contest, throwing the news media overstride and making the advantage Obama once possessed more uncertain.

* McCain has broken Obama's grip on media attention, despite an accepted conclusion that his acceptance speech last Thursday night was super. The Palin pick has dominated media coverage since Friday morning.

* Women will not automatically vote for a McCain/Palin ticket. But many feel some sense of justice in her nomination because Obama did not fairly consider Sen. Hillary Clinton to be his runningmate.

ABC's Cokie Roberts took the media to task for its questioning of Palin's ability to be a vice president and mother. Roberts also has visibly been angry in previous appearances over how Clinton was treated by the media during the primary campaign. That doesn't mean Roberts will vote for McCain/Palin. But her responses show a deep resentment toward a candidate promising change and a media covering it, then treating women with the same disregard. Stay tuned to that issue.

* The potential scandal involving Palin and her handling of the firing of the state of Alaska's public safety commissioner does not appear to be a consequential matter for her VP candidacy. The media is in deep pursuit, however, of a more lasting scandal to pin on her.

* Dem VP pick Joe Biden faces an almost untenable task of how to treat Palin on the campaign trail and in the upcoming VP debate in St. Louis. Does he go to the jugular or does he back off and act polite and gracious? This is the same kind of problem Al Gore faced in 2000 against Bush. Thankfully for Biden, there will be only one VP debate.

* The experience debate cuts both ways. Obama's backers claim the argument no longer works for McCain with his VP pick of an 18-month state governor. She is totally unprepared to one heartbeat away from the presidency. McCain supporters point to another governor from a small, isolated state who was a presidential nominee -- Bill Clinton of Arkansas in 1992.

In my opinion, both sides have faulty arguments. Clinton only won the presidency in 1992 because of Ross Perot's candidacy that claimed 19% percent of the vote. Clinton did not win on the strength of his experience. So that argument by McCain backers won't work.

The issues of Palin's inexperience and McCain's age and health are non-starters. The guy survived five years in the toughest conditions and under the most serious stress as a POW. His mother is deep into her '90s. His skin cancer is under control. I bet he is going to live long enough if he is properly protected by Secret Service and limits his regular handshaking excursions into crowds.

Palin will have time to learn foreign policy expertise from one of the most-experienced pols. Meanwhile on the Democrats' side, a president would have to learn foreign policy from someone over whom he has authority to ignore. Palin has beaten more experienced incumbents before, including a sitting governor in his own party's primary. That's a huge political feat that Democrats should not underestimate. The woman can campaign with the best of 'em -- males and females.

The advanatge on the matter of national security ultimately will lean toward McCain, particularly with Russia now making two Georgian provinces into part of its country and Israel readying a takeout strike if Iran reaches nuclear capability. Meanwhile, Iran has provided longer-range missiles to Hezbollah, giving it the capability of sending rockets deeper into Israel in the event of a takeout strike. This center of uncertainty in the world gives McCain the state of Florida in November and all the South except perhaps Virginia.

This week, the GOP will limit its scope to mostly be a telethon to raise money for New Orleans or whatever place in the nation that takes Hurricane Gustav's biggest blow. McCain, who just made the announcement of the change this afternoon, even may deliver his acceptance speech from the place needing help.

So both campaigns probably will lay low for a week, leaving only 57 short days for you to make your own choice and Sunday morning shows to talk about what you're thinking.

Obama needs to quit steering toward the middle and just push forward with hope and change

I would like to see Sen. Barack Obama be president. We argee on more issues than I do with Sen. John McCain. And change coupled with hope are the most dynamic forces in the universe for the people I love the most and respect.

But a lot of us who initially backed him have watched the change of his campaign come in a series of troubling flip-flops in his previous positions on issues. His initial comment on Russia's invasion of Georgia was more critical of Sen. John McCain than Vladamir Putin. And that was strange considering that he cited Russia in the primary race as the bigger danger in the world than Iran and Osama bin Laden.

All Democratic presidential nominees drift back toward the ideological middle after winning primaries dominated by more liberal members and special interests of their party. But Obama's drift has smacked more of inexperience and compromise of integrity. His failure to seriously consider Sen. Hillary Clinton as his vice president was more of a choice toward his ego than sealing the ascencion of Democratic compassion to the White House.

The final domino of disappointment fell when his convention this past week failed to cite immigration and the treatment of undocumented human beings as an issue during prime-time speeches. Instead, Obama devoted five seconds of a 50-minute speech to a generality of Republicans needing to find common ground with Democrats on immigration.

Former Reagan National Security Adviser Bud McFarlane -- during GOP platform committee meetings last week- -- made a much more lengthy and compassionate call for tolerance. His voice defeated an attempt by party extremists to put the GOP on record as against all comprehensive immigrations reform. Go figure.

Sen. Obama is making a big mistake in moving toward the middle in an election that has nothing to do with ideology -- but deeply personal issues such as surviving in a recession and in an increasingly volatile world. I hope someone close to him will help first encourage change in his campaign, before the nation.

Liberal vs. conservative is not going to matter most compared to most experienced and moat compassionate. By that measure, Obama wins by a landslide in November. Compromise those principles, including with universal health care, and the race remains close. And the opening ultimately is provided for McCain to win,, based on some new turn in national security happenings.

So that's my advice to Obama. I don't care if he is the frist African-American president or if he is a Democrat or liberal. I just want change and hope -- and the candidate who can deliver both.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Here is what is saying about Palin, and it sure isn't good in 'Troopergate' investigation is doing a great job of vetting GOP VP pick Gov. Sarah Palin.

And at least from what one writer has learned from folks in Alaska, Sen. John McCain could easily end up regretting his choice. Click on:

NYTIMES new education column offers worthy examination of political promises on public schools

The New York Times is the only major newspaper in America that really offers more quality content with its website.

And the debut of its new Education Watch column is a must read for Nashvillians and Americans interested in better public schools.

This week, The Times examines Sen. Barack Obama's education promises. It is an accurate, unbiased and good read. Go to:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Be sure you're sitting down before you read this: Bredesen gave Volkswagen $577 million in tax breaks for the damn Chattanooga auto plant

WSMV Channel 4 reports that Gov. Phil Bredesen gave corporate giant Volkswagen $577 million in tax breaks to bring 2,000 jobs to Tennessee.

That was more than one-third above the booty offered by the next highest bidder, the state of Alabama. Its officials offered a paltry $380 million in freebies, WKRN's Dennis Ferrier adeptly reported.

Ultimately, you as a Tennessee taxpayer are paying $68,000 in tax breaks annually for each job that won't even pay that much in salary.

Incredible. Shameful. Very Bredesen-like. The governor is the aristocratic Will Rogers. He never met a corporation and mega-millionaire he didn't like to give your money away to.

I thought the Dell deal Bredesen negotiated as mayor of Nashville was bad. The Volkswagen giveaway makes Dell look like hard bargaining.

WKRN's report comes on a Friday evening. It looks like the governor released the information into what politicos consider a dead zone in news media coverage. Even more on a Friday evening before a holiday, you're going to a high school football game, or out to dinner, or staying at home just too damned tired from being overworked or on the road to visit friends and family. So you won't be paying attention to the news.

Bredesen knew the information on Volkswagen giveaway was so damning that he wanted to bury it as much as possible, like a pile of ... well, you know what.

These kind of usual Bredesen shenanigans are so angering. They serve the few at the expense of the many taxpayers and vulnerable. The 2,000 jobs are not even guaranteeed to Tennesseans. That means you're financing jobs for folks paying taxes to the state of Georgia, or Alabama.

Bredesen has done it to taxpayers again. And he has shown that he cares very little for the people who do most of the living and dying in this state.

NYTimes profile of Gov. Sarah Palin's political history in Alaska is accurate and impressive

Click on the following link to view a political bio on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin compiled by the nation's newspaper of record, The New York Times.

The points that stand out in her record are the diversity of positions of public service she has held. And according to The Times, she even raised taxes on oil companies in her state.

She has been an incumbent's nightmare in her political career, beating the GOP governor in the Alaska Republican primary in 2006. In the general election, she beat a former governor who campaigned on Palin not having enough experience.

She has only been in the governor's office for almost a year and a half. But she has served in some sort of state oversight capacity since 2004. She has held elected office of some kind since 1992. So she has experience in serving the people.

The obstacle for her in voters' minds is whether she would have the experience to lead America's foreign policy initiatives in the event something happened to a President McCain. As U.S. Sen. Joe Biden said earlier this year, the Oval Office is not the place for on-the-job training.

Yet Gov. Palin certainly has the most experience of anyone in the presidential race when it comes to running responsible government. And that is the kind of change both campaigns say they want to bring to Washington, D.C.

CNN's male anchor and reporters show themselves to be quite the sexists regarding VP Palin pick

Already embarrassed by being beaten so soundly by FOX News, CNN and its male anchor John Roberts and several male reporters shamed the network even further with their grossly sexist questioning of the pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as GOP VP nominee.

Palin, a mother of five, has a Downs Syndrome child. Her son was born in April. Roberts and his fellow chauvinists immediately questioned the properness and the time she would have to care for her child as VP.

What dunderheads! She has a husband, who also is a father. He can care for the child. And in Palin's case, it already turns out that he does and with the other children as well.

A Downs Syndrome child is not some alien from another planet. In the child's first year and more, he or she will mostly be like any other infant. My wife returned to college just six days after having her first child. Should she have stayed home with a non-Downs infant?

That's not to say there will be a lot of issues Palin and her husband will face soon. But there are many heroic families with Downs children who do incredible things. I know of them, and they are remarkable people.

Not so remarkable are the men of CNN, who immediately tried to question the ability of a female politico and mother to hold a higher office. Would the same question be asked of a male VP choice?

No. And that's what makes John Roberts and Friends' performance this morning that much more disgusting.

VP pick Palin has one big issue in her background, no visible stance yet on undocumented workers

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has only a bit of baggage to carry as the GOP's VP nominee.

The state Legislature there just initiated an investigation of her office for the firing of the state's highway commissioner. Firing is something she has done frequently with members of the good ol' boy bureaucracy she has encountered there. But her latest action may be different, since critics have claimed she fired the commissioner for not getting rid of a state trooper who got a divorce from her sister.

The LATimes has been keeping up with this story, so it will be interesting to see what it publishes this weekend.

After a quick Google search, Palin apparently has no visible and visceral stance on undocumented workers in the United States. Hopefully, she'll be more moderate in her beliefs as McCain had been and still could be if elected. The next 67 days until America votes will tell.

Breaking News: McCain stuns political world with vice presidential pick, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska

U.S. Sen. John McCain has picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick and effectively stole the thunder from the DNC in Denver.

McCain's target is obvious -- disaffected supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. And she has to be chuckling in private that Obama now faces a larger dilemma besides his own inexperience. Clinton 2012 just became more of a reality. Such is the stuff of change, also.

Now Palin may be another "Congressman" Marsha Blackburn, long on words but short on integrity of actions. And her position on immigration reform and humane treatment of undocumented human beings may be just as harsh as the Brentwood Republican.

She is an outsider in politics, having ousted incumbents from mayor to the governor's office. She has five children, including one who has Down's Syndrome born just in April. She has a degree in journalism, something we shouldn't hold against her.

The Obama campaign says her choice effectively takes the experience argument concerning their candidate off the table in the presidential race. Interesting. But not a certainty.

She is a former sportscaster, so she has communication skills ala the Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan. She is a fiscal conservative and anti-choice politician. Palin also has a son about ready to deploy to Iraq, like Sen. Joe Biden.

McCain the Maverick has returned. His choice is certainly a surprise. And the surprise nature of his politics is one thing that may sway some undecideds like me.

Day 4 from the DNC: Obama makes effective speech to shore up his political base but impact on undecideds like me is disappointingly negligible

Sen. Barack Obama gave the kind of speech last night that most certainly shored up his Democratic base.

The speech in an amazing setting was one for the history books. He left many of the people at Invesco Field in tears. He deserved the moment for a battle well-fought against a previously invincible political machine.

But in accordance with the criticsm from Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign, Obama's speech lacked the needed specifics -- particularly in how he would pay for all the programs promised and which programs no longer worked.

Closing tax loopholes on businesses is temporary. Businesses will adapt and adjust their spending and the kind of revenues racked up to reduce their tax bill.

He is going to cut taxes for 95% percent of Americans and raise them on the 5% left. I like that. But that will not be enough to cover all the costs of his programs. Fiscally, it sounds like a wash. And taxbreaks are always hard to take back. But you have to admire him for trying.

Obama if he becomes president will also be dealing with an economic recession. Don't expect the economy to bounce back for at least another year. Banks will start to fail next as will consumer confidence. All that means less revenue coming into state and national tax coffers.

Obama's criticism of McCain was direct and frequent. But his most direct point of attack -- that McCain voted 90% of the time with President Bush -- had some holes. In his votes, McCain supported No Child Left Behind, which has finally delivered accountability to the nation's education bureaucracy. He supported the prescription drug addition to Medicare, the largest boost in an entitlement program since LBJ's Great Society. He supported the administration unprecedented aid program to Africa to fight HIV and other disease.

Yes, I'm ready for Bush to leave office, too. But let's portray an accurate record. And when it comes to Iraq, McCain differed from Bush on how to conduct the war after Rumsfeld's disastrous tenure. The surge effort that has worked in Iraq was McCain's idea. In addition, as for who voted to go to war in the first place, McCain is as guilty as Obama's runningmate Sen. Joe Biden.

As for health care which is a primary issue for me, Obama is not promising universal health care. He is promising to make it more affordable with a mandate for the coverage of children. It is not universal care which Clinton pushed and over which she criticized Obama on the campaign trail.

As for the freedom of choice, Obama tried to stir up fears about abortion rights being removed across the nation with an adverse Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. Actually, an adverse decision means the matter would be returned to the states for passing of laws outlawing choice. Even in Tennessee, I would not expect a clear law outlawing choice. And if there was one, it would take years. Already, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the state Constitution provides for more rights to choice than the U.S. one does. So lawsuits and court rulings would negate any anti-choice law for even longer. Others may disagree with my assessment, but I believe it to be a conservative one, no pun intended.

Obama had some great lines, particularly about Republicans wanting suffering Americans to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, even if they don't have a boot. His line about McCain's intent to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell but not to the cave where he lived was sharp. But while he was praising former President Clinton, Obama failed to mention that Clinton had a satellite photo of bin Laden greeting guests at a compound. Yet Clinton did not order a cruise missile attack to destroy the compound and bin Laden.

Unfortunately, and beyond Clinton's knowledge, 9-11 followed during Bush's first year. Obama did not cite that event in his speech and how it also changed the nation in the past eight years. That's pretty lame, and it will cost him with security moms who decide this election. Next week, the GOP will boast about no terrorist attack on U.S. soil like 9-11 since that fateful day -- an astounding accomplishment.

Obama was clearly right when he said that Republicans needed to finally own up to their failures. I agree wholeheartedly. But Democrats do, too. And Obama did not help them take a step toward political cleansing with this speech.

NPR's Juan Williams was critical of Obama for only citing Dr. King near the end of his speech as an afterthought. That's a tough call. Obama has not tried to run as an African-American candidate for president. He has run as an American candidate. So Obama has faced a sort of Jekyll and Hyde existence on the campaign trail. It must surely be a difficult situation to handle. One can praise him for his adeptness, or criticize him for avoiding the obvious. I lean toward praise.

So that's it. The DNC from Denver was interesting from the extent of the Clinton's capitulation and the strong attack on McCain and Bush. It also was most interesting from what was not addressed in prime time -- particuarly about comprehensive immigration reform and the need to treat undocumented workers and their families as human beings.

The explanation is that Obama wants to steer to the middle. Immigration and the inhumane treatment of undocumented workers would force his candidacy to say what it does not want to say in prominent places now. So don't bring it up -- a new version of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Hispanic voters will not revolt. They'll accept private assurances. But outside of them, undecided voters are going to demand more specifics on spending and what programs are going to be quashed. Security moms -- again, who will decide this election -- will want to know more about how Obama is going to make up for his foreign policy shortcomings. His first two decisions as a presidential candidate -- on Georgia and picking a VP -- were not reassuring.

Despite what Obama claimed last night, this campaign is still about him and his experience to be president of the United States of America. Now on to Minnesota and to rip into the Republicans.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If you can't beat 'em, make them pass an English profiency test on the ladies pro golf tour

On the LPGA tour, South Korean players are beating the heck out of duffers from the United States.

In fact, more and more American women can't even qualify for the tour. Korean players now have won more than a third of the 121 spots on the tour. And seven of the top 20 players are Korean.

So the LPGA this week announced a new rule that players must pass a verbal English proficiency test by the end of 2009 or be suspended. Not everyone must take the test; only people identified as needing to take the test. What constitutes profiency? Who will do the judging of proficiency? Who says who needs to be tested? What happens if a person is deaf and there is no one on the tour to read sign language?

No one knows these answers. But I bet the winnings of the players may determine who gets targeted and who doesn't.

It's amazing. Here is another anti-diversity knee jerk. Here is another instance of Americans crying over non-citizens taking their jobs.

For the LPGA, it does not matter if the person scored best for the place on the tour. It's the same with non-sports jobs. It doesn't matter if immigrants work the hardest and the longest, on weekends and at nights, and businesses want them.

Meritocracy no longer matters in America. It's all a matter of entitlement, particularly if non-citizens are better and more devoted to the job and task.

All hail, former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm. America, a nation of whiners as he described it, has now descended further into irrationality with the LPGA English rule.

Day 3 from the DNC: It certainly was historic but surrounded and immersed in the same ol' politics

Sen. Barack Obama officially notched his place in the history books last night with his nomination as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

Great. Now what? If the speeches before Obama's surprise appearance are any indication, it will be more double talk of do what I say, not as I have done.

VP nominee Sen. Joe Biden started strong in citing his common history with many Americans struggling to make ends meet. His son's speech beforehand was outstanding and said a lot about Biden as a man and father. Speeches by military men and women and wives -- some of who are Republicans -- also were most effective and inspiring. Well done, Dems.

But Biden drifted into foreign policy -- his supposed expertise. And that was disheartening for those who know his record. He voted to go to war with Iraq. Later, he called for the partitioning of Iraq, which most reporters on the scene and experts at home labeled a disasterous idea.

Biden then tried to reassure Americans that he had been on the ground in Georgia and had assessed the situation. But he sure didn't criticize Obama for his initial ridiculous and reckless comment about the Russian invasion, which only encouraged Putin to keep going. McCain had the right first response, no matter if a member of his campaign is a lobbyist for Georgia.

Would a Vice President Biden been able to stop a similiar silly statement from a President Obama in the event of another Russian invasion? Or would he just dance around the misstep with flowery words and reassurances like last night?

As for the common man, Biden voted for legislation that made it harder for people on the edge to jettison their credit card debt in bankruptcy court. Yes, Biden does ride the train home from Washington. But an obviously unimpressed Cokie Roberts last Sunday made sure that viewers knew that Biden does not ride the train daily to get back home.

Former President Billl Clinton made a good political speech, completing the Clinto family's capitulation to the Obama campaign and DNC leaders. Sen. Hillary Clinton should have been Obama's VP pick. He could now be measuring for new drapes in the Oval Office. But he chose another good ol' boy and will have to suffer for it with a much closer presidential election than anyone figured for November.

Tonight, from his Greek temple edifice, Obama will try and make people believe he is not an Olympic, celebrity God but a fella with a common touch. I wish him much luck, because where the presidential race now stands, he most certainly needs it and more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nashville sheriff's 'dramatic' change in shackling of pregnant inmates is no change at all; Boycott Music City products and as a place to visit!

Because of the response from readers of this blog and reporting by The New York Times, Metro Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall has been forced to address the torture of Juana Villegas (DeLaPaz) and her newborn son by his department.

Yesterday, he claimed he would make a "dramatic" change in how pregnant inmates under his custody would be treated during labor and childbirth.

Yet his supposed change in policy would not have benefitted Mrs. Villegas or her newborn. Nor does it even address separating a child from its mother in the crucual first days following birth when the newborn needs mother's milk to build the immunity system.

Still Hall maintains that his department followed proper procedure under the old rules. This politician refuses to acknowledge the truth.

Villegas' attorney wants to see the supposed new policy in print, not from the mouth of a man who misrepresented the intent of the 287g deportation program in the first place. In writing, that policy will still show the sheriff's department has the discretion to do as it wants. Its judgment already has been shown to be deeply flawed and grossly inhumane. So Hall's annoucement amounts to nothing new.

Sorry, sheriff, but we're not so easily fooled. To readers of this blog, keep your interest high and your e-mails coming. And be sure to boycott Nashville as a place to spend your tourism dollars, hold your conventions and buy products made here, particularly country music.

You've forced the sheriff to at least comment in public about Mrs. Villegas' torture. Keep up the pressure and spread the word about the boycott. And watch this blog for the next shoe to drop -- a federal civil rights lawsuit against Nashville officials who stil refuse to do the right and humane thing.

Day 2 from the DNC: Best speaker for Sen. Obama was not a politician but a real person on frontlines

Home caregiver Pauline Beck gave the best speech last night at the Democratic National Convention.

She spoke of the struggles in her job that carries a federal cap on how high her hourly pay can be. It's the same way with nursing home workers because Medicare and Medicaid have cost-saving provisions. So these jobs keep the working poor in poverty while they are caring for the most vulnerable among us.

Her testimony of how much time and effort Sen. Barack Obama gave in helping her do her job one day said a lot about Obama's character. That can make up a for a lot of inexperience. And hopefully he will do something about these federal caps hurting the working poor.

Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech last night was quite formidable. Its best parts, however, were when she talked of the people like Beck she has met on the campaign trail -- from Iraq war veterans needing help to people struggling to find affordable health care to the people cut off from the American Dream.

Tuesday night at the convention should teach Democrats how they can win in November. Seeking out and sharing the stories of people on the front lines of this economic recession and punitive immigration policy will unleash the number of needed new voters to make Obama the next president of the United States.

And what he learns from his involvement with these people can make up for the inexperience he would bring to the world's most powerful office.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Metro Nashville should quit playing games with EnglishFirst referendum set for November

Metro Nashville officials should stop playing games in trying to derail a charter referendum with legal technicalities that proposes to make English the official language of government business here.

Referendum supporters have gained the needed signatures of more than 10,000 Metro citizens. That's impressive. They've also followed the rules to get their cause before all voters in November. The ability of people to redress their government with grievances is sacred. Never fool around with it.

While I don't like the referendum because it is so unnecessary, I am alarmed when government tries to undermine the ability of people to be heard. I felt the same when I was writing during the state income tax push by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and then Gov. Don Sundquist.

While I have always supported an income tax and still do, I was dead set against officials elected by the people to try and circumvent the will of those they are supposed to serve. Naifeh and Sundquist, with a big assist from the news media, were trying to stall, speed up and cover up legislation to get an income tax into law. The people were left on the outside looking in with their own government. That's a bad precedent. And I wrote as much in my then-column in The Tennessean.

Again, I don't like EnglishFirst. But it is the right of the people -- as law is interpreted now -- to have their will expressed in their community's statutes. Yes, this law may ultimately be determined to be unconstitutional and will cost Metro some big legal dollars to defend it. Yes, it is wrong for a city with more than 1,000 places of worship to enact a law that is an affront to the strangers among us. Scripture calls on us to do exactly the opposite.

Yet, even steps backward are part of the pluses and minuses in a republic form of government.

There's an old saying in the opinion-writing business: While I may disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.

That's the way it should be with any referendum. Make your cases against it and for it. Try and educate people on what it the truth. Then trust them to make the right decision.

Don't play games with our way of making laws and removing them, such as the Metro Election Commission did today in voting against putting the referendum on the November ballot. A republic is too precious for such shameful shenanigans.

If newspapers want transparency in government, then they should practice it themselves

The Tennessean has finally latched onto an issue that could draw more reader attentiveness and satisfaction with the ongoing scandal at the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Put the preachiness of Editor Mark Silverman and columnist Gail Kerr has been a litte too much to take considering where they work and its lack of transparency -- not only with the public but its own over-burdened workers.

Silverman cries for more open records, yet Tennessean employees just recently had to endure a long weekend of not knowing if they would be laid-off and their families sent into harm's way. That was inexcusable and inhumane.

Kerr, too, has remained silent in print on that matter and other ill treatments of Tennessean workers. Of course, if she would write something, then she'd probably lose her job. So now you know why many good THP officers and employees have been reticent to speak up about the mounting scandals at their workplace.

Yes, criticism belongs at the top, and so it is with Gov. Phil Bredesen as he huddles with real Democrats in Denver. And the blame for the lack of transparency at The Tennessean also belongs at the top, not only with the editor and publisher but with corporate bigwigs in Virginia at Gannett Co. Inc.

The news media always wants it both ways. They criticize government organizations and officials over their lack of openness because these entities are supposed to represent the people. Yet they stay secretive because they're privately owned. Still, they constantly preach in advertising how it's "your Tennessean", or how they are committed to knowing about what's important in your life and reporting it.

Every parent has taught his or her children to model the kind of conduct they expect from others. So The Tennessean and Gannett could accept this constructive criticism by providing transparency to the public in which the public is discussed or affected.

For instance, news meetings -- in which what the public wants to know is discussed by editors -- would be improved if that public could attend or at least watch the meeetings over The Tennessean web site. Readers would be invited to comment and limitedly participate in the meetings on what is being discussed. More importantly, they could let editors directly know about things they're not discussing.

No, a news organization does not want to give away what it is writing to competitors. But some issues are already known, such as the THP scandal and speeches at the Democratic National Convention. Public comment early in the day could vastly improve newspaper coverage by giving readers information they want to know instead of information editors believe they want to know.

Inviting the public into editorial board meetings is a must. We did as much 13 years ago at the Gannett newspaper in Utica, N.Y., where I was opinion page editor for four years. Members of the public were asked their opinion while the editorial board was discussing positions on issues. So the public had input before editorials were written. Imagine that? Surely more sophisticated journalism leaders at The Tennessean could improve on the poor model we had in Utica.

At the corporate level, Gannett at the very least could promise its own employees that they never will have to endure the kind of weekend of worry over layoffs as recently transpired. It also could invite the public to comment on layoffs before they happen. Readers should know how the product they buy is going to be affected instead of reading misleading columns by editors about how they're getting so much more.

So those are my constructive recommendations to The Tennenssean on how it could really lead on the THP issue. It also is how it could prove that the words in all its advertising, marketing pitches and editor columns are more than empty words.

Day 1 from the DNC: "Hey, It's Not So Bad to Still Be Ignored, Women of America!"

If you think the Chinese were master propagandists in ignoring the obvious during the just-completed Olympic Games, then the Democatic Party last night has to be considered even more impressive.

The political spin started with four women being proclaimed masters of the convention proceedings. The underlying message to supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton is that Sen. Barack Obama and the party leadership want to show you that women still have it real good -- even if they've been denied one of their own as a potential president of the United States of America.

Would African-Americans have been satisfied with something like that if a candidate who looked like them had been denied the nomination? Of course not. So why are women considered stupid enough to accept these shenanigans?

The worst of it was Michelle Obama's speech. It was obvious that she and her strong opinions had been sweated out of her since her remarks in the primary campaign about being proud of America for the first time. The poor woman was made into a walking talking flagpole, repeatedly stating her love for America, children, puppies, apple pie, motherhood, sisterhood, neighborhoood, wifehood and anything 'hood that Republicans could not use for fodder at their convention next week.

The high monent of last night -- the tribute to the great Sen. Ted Kennedy and his subseuquent appearance and remarks -- was offset by former President Jimmy Carter's rewriting of history in the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the city of New Orleans.
Carter blamed the Bush administration for all the bad there. Yes, the administration has a lot of blame to take for its grossly inadequate response and the president's initial flyover like a motorist rubbernecking by an accident.

But it was Democrats who controlled New Orleans in the critical decades and years before Katrina hit in Sept. 2005. They damn well knew the levies were inadequate. Yet most of the fiscal pork they brought home went into more immediate political rewards that would ensure incumbency. One big appropriation went to a Jazz Hall of Fame.

The real problem in communication in New Orleans was between a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor. If they couldn't get their act together nearest the disaster, then Washington was simply going to err in the quickness of its response. And it did, big time.

Carter, however, did not share this truth Monday night. While he has an impressive post-presidential record on reaching out to people of this nation and the world, he also is the man who certified Hugo Chavez's re-election as president of Venezuela despite opposition contentions of mass fraud. Yes, no one is perfect. But Carter's platform to speak on New Orleans before a world audience was not credible.

And that was real theme of the first night of Democratic National Convention: a lack of credibility. The obvious was ignored in favor of political spin. Women -- who do most of the voting in this nation -- were again treated as if they're stupid enough to fall for these shenanigans.

They're not. And the Obama campaign may well discover that truth in November.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Orwell speaks again to a world on the brink

Sunday's New York Times had a great piece on the publishing of the diaries of author George Orwell on the 70th anniversary of their writing.

The diaries are being published by the keeper of his writings, The Orwell Prize.

Here is one citation that speaks to me and what I believe in with my blog. Orwell wrote the following about fellow British author Charles Dickens:

"‘He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.’"

Orwell's political diaries will start running Sept. 7 and will feature -- according to The Orwell Prize -- the author's thinking at the onset of World War II and humanity's future.

Perhaps you'll find something in his diaries that will speak to you as the presidential election approaches, or as politicians of both major parties in America continue to betray.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Metro looking to wrong sources for way to rescue its public schools; Go West to Memphis!

Yes, it is indeed incredible, but the school district having few problems with the federal No Child Left Behind law is in Memphis with the most impoverished and at-risk children in the state of Tennessee.

If it were not the children involved, the frenzy of the past several months by Nashville people with titles and journalists with columns would be laughable. A column that touted the good fortune of Metro having Mayor Karl Dean and Gov. Phil Bredesen available to take over Metro public schools under No Child Left Behind was a real hoot. It ignored Bredesen's political core curriculum that left more children behind than an early school bus. And Dean is merely a weaker version of Bredesen.

In the same newspaper in which the column appeared, it was subsequently reported that only 18 percent of Tennnessee children are ready for college once they graduate from high school, according to ACT numbers. Bredesen has been Tennessee's governor for almost six years now. That's not much of a record for him.

Metro's children deserve better than Dean, Bredesen and uninformed columnists. The dynamic Democratic duo also believe more in private schools than public ones. Bredesen sent his child to private school as Dean does with his children now.

This kind of double-standard is reminiscent of the old Rodney Dangerfield joke about the restaurant inviting customers to sample its "great food". Meanwhile, Rodney spots the cook going out to lunch. Rodney says, "Gee, if the food is so great then why is the cook going out to eat? Ah, I get no respect."

Neither do Metro's children.

Read the following story from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal on how school children there are prospering under No Child Left Behind. Nashville leaders should load up a bus, put their egos in their backpockets and go to Memphis to ask for advice and help.

The bottom line from Bluff City is that no one is coming to take over Memphis public schools. Why? Perhaps a better mayor, or a congressman of the integrity of Steve Cohen who is involved. You be the judge.

Memphis City Schools gets mixed report card
District improves, but some schools still lag

By Dakarai I. Aarons, Memphis Commercial Appeal

The news on No Child Left Behind for Memphis City Schools is a mixed bag of results, according to information released Monday by the Tennessee Department of Education.

While the district returned to good standing under No Child Left Behind, the number of individual schools in good standing decreased from 128 to 119.

In the good news category, the number of schools on the state's "high priority" list dropped by 11, including six schools that had long languished on the list of schools eligible for state takeover.

Memphis has 30 schools -- down from 41 the year before -- on the "high priority" list, which tracks schools that failed to meet federal benchmarks two years in a row. Twenty of those schools, however, improved in several categories, including 12 of the 15 schools that were eligible for state takeover last year.

The results released Monday show how close -- or far -- students are from meeting standards for reading and math proficiency, attendance and graduation rates.

Schools must meet benchmarks in 37 categories or use some other method approved by the state to be considered in good standing.

"The students, parents, teachers, and staff in schools that performed admirably, as well as those schools that continue to show improvement, are to be commended and should be encouraged by these results," said Supt. Kriner Cash in a prepared statement. Cash and board members are in Park City, Utah, at a reform governance retreat.

Not all the news was good for Memphis schools, however.

Memphis schools on the state's less-urgent "target" list, which places schools on watch for narrowly missing benchmarks in the first year, increased to 34 from 16 last year.

The number of target schools increased statewide as the federal benchmarks went up from 79 to 86 percent proficiency in math and 83 to 89 percent proficiency in reading and language arts..

That tripped up a number of schools in Greater Memphis. Shelby County's Woodstock Middle and Tipton County's Covington High also landed on the target list.

A number of Memphis schools used the "safe harbor" provision to meet the mark, which gives schools credit for making a 10 percent reduction in students who tested below proficient the year before and meeting either the attendance or graduation rate target, depending on grade level.

The number of schools that used "safe harbor," along with details on how individual schools fared on the state's exams, will likely be released by the state in November.

State officials had high praise for the work done in improving schools that had been on the state's failing list for years, such as Treadwell Elementary, Airways Middle, Vance Middle and East High.

"They are to be congratulated for what they've done," said Connie Smith, executive director of innovation, improvement, and accountability for the state department of education.

Smith said she was "particularly proud" of Vance, which had been on the list longer than any of the other schools.

Smith credited the work done by former Supt. Carol Johnson's "fresh start" plan for the improvements in many schools.

In those schools, which included Vance and Airways, principals and entire staffs were changed in an effort to boost student achievement.

But the work remains unfinished. Hamilton High, for example, is in the state's worst-performing category under NCLB.

Many staff were replaced there last year and Cash recently moved Michael Bates, credited with turning around Humes Middle School, into the principal's position at Hamilton.

The hate behind 287g -- this time in North Carolina; Old Times in South are not forgotten

It is easy to see why Mrs. Juana Villegas (DeLaPaz) was tortured by Nashville law enforcement authorities for six days in July under the 287g deportation program.

The following story from The News&Observer in North Carolina is indicative of the kind of hate we're dealing with here and across the nation, particularly in the South. The New South is old once again. And the story is the reason why 287g must be prominently mentioned and confronted, because hate grows stronger when the children of the light become more silent and cowardly.

Hispanic leaders fear for safety
Ugly side of debate emerges in threats

Activist Andrea Bazán was so scared by threats that she sent her children to stay with her ex-husband.

By Kristin Collins, Staff Writer

For North Carolina's Hispanic leaders, the biggest hazards of the job were once long hours. Now, they include death threats.
A pair of the state's most prominent advocates, Andrea Bazán and Tony Asion, say that for the past several months, each time they have spoken publicly, they have gotten a raft of profanity-laced messages, some of them exhorting them to return to their home countries and others denigrating Hispanics. Several legislators say they have also gotten messages recently that cross the line into racism, and one got a menacing voice mail.

Threats of violence are becoming common enough that Bazán, president of the philanthropic Triangle Community Foundation, has requested protection at some public appearances. Asion, director of the Raleigh Hispanic advocacy group El Pueblo and a former police officer, said he has received two handwritten death threats at his office since May.

"This is not about immigration," Bazán said. "This is not about debating policy. This has moved on to another sphere. This is hate."

Bazán and others say they've gotten disturbing hate mail before. A 2005 effort to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants brought reams of it, but that furor died down fairly quickly. Now, they say, threats and racist messages are becoming routine.

State legislators who supported a bill this year that would have guaranteed illegal immigrants the right to attend state colleges got a raft of messages, some of which smeared immigrants.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she received one phone message warning that "my days are numbered." She said the message, which included profane insults, felt like a threat.

"I have not seen anything like what illegal immigration elicits," Harrison said. "It's revealing a very ugly side of humanity that I've never seen before."

These governors are real Democrats

The Wall Street Journal -- which has been smartly supportive of positive immigration reform on its editorial pages -- recently featured this eye-opening news article on what progressive Democrats are doing concerning undocumented human beings in this country.

My blog is more critical of Democrats than Republicans. One primary reason why is that Democrats claim to know better; they claim to be more enlightened.

So when Democrats like Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Congressman Jim Cooper and County Sheriff Daron Hall bring (or support) the heinous 287g deportation program to Music City, then the words "progressive" and "Democrats" don't go together. Gov. Phil Bredesen, another Democrat, is bringing 287g statewide to Tennessee under the Tennessee Highway Patrol -- the most dysfunctional law enforcement entity in the nation from continuing scandal the governor refuses to address.

On its editorial pages, The Wall Street Journal is a conservative business voice in the news media. Its take on immigration is most progressive. Unlike most members of the business community in Nashville and across the nation, it is willing to take a public stand -- regardless of how much patronage it might lose from conservatives and Republicans.

Democrats could learn something about courage and integrity from it and their fellow governors featured in the following article. Quit appealing to the ignorant and to the fear-mongers. Do the right and progressive thing. Lead.

Some States Seek Integration Path for Immigrants

Behind the national debate over immigration, a handful of Democratic governors are mounting a quiet offensive to integrate, rather than repel, foreign newcomers.

The governors of Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington have signed orders that make immigrant integration a priority for their states, focusing on language, job and citizenship training as well as access to services, such as health care and public safety, for immigrants.

The federal government's failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform has prompted states and localities to come up with their own solutions to illegal immigration. Governors are taking divergent paths to cope with the record influx of immigrants, particularly those here illegally.

In March, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, a Republican, signed an executive order that empowers state police and correctional officers to enforce some immigration laws. It also requires companies that do business with the state to use an electronic system to verify whether job applicants are in the country legally and eligible to work. Georgia and Arizona also have recently passed anti-illegal immigrant laws.

The U.S. has absorbed a record number of immigrants since 1990, mainly from Latin America, Asia and Africa. The country is now home to about 38 million legal immigrants and 12 million undocumented immigrants. An additional 31 million people are children of immigrants.

Supporters of the executive orders to promote integration of foreign residents say the orders counter the hostile rhetoric of the immigration debate. "It's creating a political climate where immigrants are seen as a net benefit to the state," says Ngoan Le, a senior official at the Chicago Community Trust, a private foundation. "The state's highest officeholder is sending a message that his state welcomes immigrants."

Groups opposed to illegal immigration have criticized the orders, which don't differentiate legal from undocumented immigrants. Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, a national group that believes in curbing all immigration to the U.S., said the executive orders "send the wrong message."

Massachusetts last month became the most recent state to adopt the strategy when Gov. Deval Patrick signed an executive order calling for a coordinated approach to integrating immigrants, who represent 14% of the state's population.

After holding fact-finding public meetings across the state, an advisory council composed of business leaders, immigrant advocates, academics and policy makers will submit policy recommendations to the governor by July 2009. State agencies, faith organizations and private-sector employers then will be charged with implementing the new programs.

"Were it not for immigrants and refugees, Massachusetts would have seen a population decline in the last seven years," says Richard Chacon, executive director of the state's office for refugees and immigrants. "Immigrants are becoming increasingly important to the health of the state economy," Mr. Chacon says.

In February, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a similar executive order creating the New Americans Policy Council, designed to make recommendations to the governor's office on immigrant matters, such as helping them learn English, transfer professional credentials and become civically engaged through public-private partnerships. About 12% of Washington state's population is foreign born.

In August 2007, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed an order that created an advisory panel on immigrant policy that is to present recommendations to the governor by the end of this year. About 20% of the state's residents hail from other countries.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, signed the New Americans Executive Order in November 2005, the first order of its kind. The order established a council comprised of business, faith, labor, community and government leaders to identify ways to improve the provision of services to immigrants and make recommendations to the governor.

In 2006, members of the policy council completed the first phase of their work. One outcome of that effort was the inauguration late last year of a pilot "welcoming center" in a Chicago suburb where thousands of new immigrants have settled.

Meant to be a one-stop shop, immigrants who visit can access several state and local services, such as signing their children up for school, finding out about health-care eligibility and learning about job-training opportunities. Bilingual staffers encourage adults to take English courses, attend computer courses or enroll their children in a new soccer league.

"It's in the best interest of the state, communities and immigrant families to expedite their integration," says Grace Hou, assistant secretary for the state department of human services.

Other programs under consideration will focus on vocational English courses and community police relations, with funding expected to come from the state, foundations and community organizations.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group that worked with Gov. Blagojevich to craft the executive order, has played a lead role in fostering integration initiatives in other states.

The coalition sponsored conferences to discuss with state officials and immigrant advocacy groups how to use executive orders to promote immigrant integration. The coalition then disbursed Carnegie Foundation grant money to three groups in other states -- including Washington and Massachusetts -- to help them spearhead efforts there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

CNN employs racist slur twice in its coverage today on Obama vice presidential pick of Biden

The great thing about CNN is that it has been providing hours of coverage of the selection of Sen. Joe Biden as the potential Democratic VP nominee.

Yet in this continuing coverage, CNN's pretty talking heads have chosen to use a racial slur in comments about Biden's tendency to say too much and get himself in trouble.

Reporter John King used it first, speaking of Biden's tendency for "going off the reservation." A female talking head in studio used the same slur in the same hour of coverage.

I could make similiar analogies with African-Americans and Hispanics, but I don't want to spread such hate speech. Some American-Indians are on reservations because of racist U.S. policy during this nation's history. For CNN to adopt a racial slur based on that racist history is shocking.

Now I don't expect CNN to quit using the slur. There are not enough American-Indians to threaten their advertisers. No matter how much media outlets claim to be meeting your need to know in a republic, they are first dedicated to making a buck.

And if they make money slurring American-Indians, then King and his comrade will continue to rattle on with this racism. It's sad, shocking, but true.

Obama's VP pick is Biden -- the man who failed to endorse Obama when he had the chance

Sen. Barack Obama's VP pick is quite a classy guy with a visible feeling for the common man that the Democratic presidential nominee cannot seem to summon.

But the elephant in the living room that cannot be ignored is this:

Sen. Joe Biden's speech this afternoon in Springfield, Ill., was a gushing tribute to Obama -- yet Biden didn't think enough of Obama to endorse him while his fight with Sen. Hillary Clinton was still ongoing.

Biden cited his debates with Obama during the primaries. And it was then and there, he told people today, that he was convinced that the presidential nominee was so special, so great, so ... well, Obama.

Yet it was also in those debates that Biden said that Obama was not yet experienced enough to be president. And the McCain campaign has already been running that clip in new TV ads.

As far as keeping in touch with the common man, Biden said Saturday that gas prices keep going up, up, up. But the price for a gallon of gas in Hermitage, TN.(a Nashville suburb) has fallen to $3.16 per gallon. That's giant relief since gas locally peaked at $4 per gallon.

Ultimately, Biden was a safe VP pick, not a historic one -- which is what the Democratic presidential ampaign says it is supposed to be all about. It was a choice that again left out the people who do most of the voting in this nation -- women. And it was a choice based on Obama's glaring weakness on foreign policy.

Afterall, the Illinois Democrat is the one running for president. VPs traditionally have been figures to help carry a state or states in the general election, then they simply take up space once the presidential term begins.

Obama will assure everyone that Biden will be so much more if he is in the White House. But history tells us otherwise. While Obama supporters will point to VP Dick Cheney as representative of a powerful second banana or even someone who actually is the president making the decisions, anyone who has met and talked at length with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice knows that she is the one who carries the greatest sway. She is the one who pushed this nation into Iraq.

Rice is the fire in President Bush's belly. And she believes in change over generations, such as with the Cold War. The numbers of lives lost is not as important to her as making historical change. She also is the one who educated Bush on foreign policy before he ran in 2000. She holds a mentor relationship with him.

Obama said Saturday that Biden is his mentor. He also mistakenly introduced Biden as the next president of the United States. Ouch! Cheney had to be smiling over that one.

Sorry, Sen. Obama, but I don't want a presidential candidate who still needs to brought up to speed on issues by a mentor. Obama's pick of Biden is representative of just that, and he'll have a hard time convincing undecided voters otherwise. And Biden will have a hard time answering for his comments during the presidential primary that Obama was not ready to be president.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Vanderbilt University ranks 18th in the nation for best places of higher learning; Go 'Doores!

Here's to the "City on a Hill" named Vanderbilt University.

U.S.. News & World Report magazine just ranked the school 18th best in the nation in its latest college rankings.

These are the vitals:

18. Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN
2007 Total Enrollment
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
Application Deadline
Academic Calendar

Topping the list were Ivy League schools of Harvard and Princeton, besides MIT. Vanderbilt ranked just below Notre Dame, which came in at 17th.

That's heady company, and something that the state of Tennessee and city of Nashville should even more recognize as an incredible asset and treasure from which to recruit the best progressive, political and sociological minds.

NBC's making big profits with its silence over Chinese human rights violations at Beijiing games

I love watching the Olympics almost as much as my wife. And of course, we root hardest for the athletes from our country.

But it is most difficult to hear NBC and CNBC talking heads boast of how great China's games have been and how few protests they've seen.

What's wrong with protests? They are representative of a free people using their liberties to the utmost. Yet CNBC and NBC know the real truth that has been provided by the print media about these games. They're just looking the other way.

The Chinese to get the games had to agree to set up seven protest zones around Beijing. But the Chinese government must approve permits for people to protest. And they've turned down a lot of permits, particularly requests for their own people.

Two Chinese women in their late '70s -- who continuously applied for permits to protest -- were sentenced to one-year in an re-education labor camp. Chinese parents who protested the poor construction of schools that claimed the lives of their children during the recent earthquake in central China also were arrested -- this time last month.

Yes, the Chinese produced a most beautiful opening ceremonies. But more print media reports have produced revelations that human beings were put through 16-hour practice days. They lived in tough conditions in apartments on the outskirts of the city. And many had to wear adult diapers because they were required to stand in place for hours.

These revelations have not made it on the air at CNBC and NBC in telecasts from Beijing. Why? First, that would eat into big profits the network is making. Second, they could have their satellite connections pulled by the Chinese government. And that would cost money.

Finally, 10 American citizens were arrested for protesting over Tibet. They had prviously protested without incident. But since their latest protest came in the last days of the Olympics, they were arrested and sentenced to 10-days in detention. Protestors usually are just asked to leave the country. So sentencing U.S. citizens to imprisonment is unacceptable.

So as the Olympics come to an end and the Chinese produce a thrilling closing ceremony, remember the old women sentenced to labor-re-educaton prison simply for asking to protest the poor price given for their homes to make room for Olympic facilities. NBC did report initially report on criticism on the poor prices. But the arrest and sentencing have not been mentioned, or at least from my dedicated viewing not prominently on prime time.

Remember your fellow citizens put into Chinese jail for simply speaking their minds.

Remember the poor folks participating in the closing ceremonies and the horrible conditions they've endured.

And remember the big bucks NBC is reaping, partly because of the incidents they're not mentioning. For me, China is finishing these games with the world's greatest fears about it confirmed.

I wouldn't mind NBC staying quiet about these human rights violations if its talking heads didn't in turn so gushing praise the Chinese government.

But money always talks loudest as the Chinese again walk away from human rights.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama needs a woman, and I don't mean for sex

NBC News revealed new poll resuls this evening that showed Republican Sen. John McCain has pulled within three percentage points of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the presidency. In polling, three percentage points are a statistical dead heat.

And news media pundits are sending out conflicting signals tonight that Obama will pick either Sen. Joe Biden or Sen. Evan Bayh for his running mate on Saturday. Biden brings more to a ticket than Bayh. He is a class guy and foreign policy expect. But neither MAN offers any excitement that Sen. Hillary Clinton would bring as a running mate, or another female politico of substance.

The glow is off the Obama campaign. Next week's Democratic National Convention offers some hope of reinvigoration, but then McCain gets to trump Obama's pick publicity-wise with his own VP choice. And talk of McCain picking Sen. Joseph Lieberman makes a McCain presidency more acceptable.

Also to my liking is all the grief being hurled at McCain by radio talk jock Rush Limbaugh over possibly picking McCain. If Rush hates it, then it has to be good for America.

A bipartisan ticket of McCain-Lieberman gives me hope that McCain would be about dishing out payback to conservatives such as Limbaugh if he gets to the White House. And that could mean immigration reform with a new process toward legalization of undocumented human beings. That could mean something closer to universal health care and affordability than this nation has ever had. That could mean Supreme Court choices not geared to how a nominee stands on abortion.

Liberman is pro-choice. McCain is against abortion.

Obama's inexperience has shown up since he defeated Clinton. His comment on the Russian invasion of Georgia was shockingly ridiculous. Then he went on vacation. National security moms are going to determine the election in November. Obama deeply worries them.

McCain is much more a threat to capture the presidency than he was before Obama clinched the Democratic nomination. That's Obama's fault. And it is his weakness that any convention bounce or picking yet another man for his ticket cannot hope to cover.

For some strange reason, I expect more of the Democrats to recognize the need for a woman on the ticket to truly make it historic and invincible. Creating change in Washington must be preceded by change in the good ol' boy system that dominates politics of both parties. Biden and Bayh represent more of the same. And picking either of them will make voting for McCain more palatable.

An August Saturday at Vanderbilt shows what the ideal looks like for Nashville and the nation

It was only by medical accident that I was on the Vanderbilt University campus on the third Saturday in August.

Little did I know that the Saturday that brought me there was probably the busiest one of the year on this "shining city on a hill," as President Ronald Reagan once called the United States of America.

The campus was swarmed by families and children, young adults and the very old. The smiling faces were colored black, brown, bronze, tan, pinkish and every hue in between. The license plates on the vehicles were from across the nation. The race and ethnicities of the human beings seemed to be of every one we've seen in the Beijing Olympics. And the languages spoken were English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and tongues I could not make out due to my ignorance.

Indeed, Vanderbilt on this August Saturday was also a Tale of Two Cities, as then New York Gov. Mario Cuomo called the same America Reagan cited in 1984.

Within the borders of Vanderbilt, there was immunity to the virus sickening the rest of Nashville and Davidson County. The campus was open, friendly, optimistic, laughing, smiling and tolerant of all the differences of the people descending upon it. In fact, there was sense of welcoming, of actually wanting all these differences for a higher purpose that goes with learning, enlightenment and progress.

It took me 15 minutes to walk from my car parked in a space at least five blocks from Vanderbilt Medical Center. And I enjoyed every step. I was like a child in a toy store at Christmas. It seemed as if I had been transported to Beijing, or the United Nations in New York. The world was in my view and within my hearing. And it was marvelous to behold.

My words written here are so inadequate to describe the environment it was my honor to intrude upon. But this surprise on an August Saturday was confirmation of the dream that remains America, that ensures this country remains the strongest in the world. On the campus, the ideas and passions of all the nations have been assembled, to first learn and then to contribute and heal.

Truly, Vanderbilt as a university and a place of healing is Nashville's and Tennessee's most precious treasure. It renews and refreshes amid the ravages of intolerance outside its borders.

No, Vanderbilt is not a perfect place. Nashville's largest employer should establish a living wage minimum of $12 an hour for every worker. That kind of leadership would then set the moral bar for other employers in Nashville and start to address the ills of the "Two Cities" of America that Cuomo cited in 1984.

Almost a quarter century later, the Two Cities are even more distinct in this nation.

If you missed being on campus last Saturday, which was the time for incoming freshman to take residency, then mark your calender for the third Saturday in August in 2009. Get there early, then walk or simply stand and soak in the world and all its languages and all its hope for a better future because of a better place called Vanderbilt University.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Son of undocumented immigrants wins first Olympic gold for United States in wrestling

Despite the passionate attempts of haters and whiners in this nation, the good of human beings without documentation in the United States cannot be denied.

Henry Cedujo, a 21-year-old son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico City, won a stunning gold medal match over his Japanese opponent today to finally give HIS country -- the United States of America -- its first top finish in wrestling.

"He has done an unbelievable job coming from the environment that he came from," his coach, Terry Brands, told The Los Angeles Times. "Could be in prison. Could be a drug runner. Could be this, could be that. He's done an unbelievable job of not being a victim."

Dedication. Hard work. Faith. Overcoming great odds. That's the story of Cedujo and his mother who raised six children here by herself in three different states. He watched his heroic mother and learned, working two jobs himself to keep food on the table while still training to be an Olympian.

Cedujo is representative of an undeniable truth: human beings with the universal virtues that make dreams come true are a benefit to any nation lucky enough to have them. Some are Muslims. Some are our Jewish brothers and sisters. Some are Hindu. Some are Christians. Some don't believe at all, except in propeling themselves according to heroic standards that inspire everyone around them.

Just think. The undocumented parents and their American children being driven from Nashville by the heinous 287g deportation program could be the next U.S. Olympic champions in London in 2012 or perhaps Chicago in 2016 ... or the next researcher who discovers the cure for cancer.

But the haters and whiners don't want to think. Here is a sampling of the reaction to Cedujo's story on the website of ALIPAC -- Americans for Legal Immigration PAC ALIPAC:

When anchor baby law is passed will his medal be taken away?

He should not be in America.


He's winning in the Olympics while tens of thousands more illegals are robbing, killing and raping as members of gangs across the country. I will gladly take an Olympic loss and save an American's life any day. F the liberal media and what they are doing to destroy our country


Did the parents go to China to watch him? If so, what documents did they use to travel? Since this article "outs" them as known illegal aliens, they must be deported once caught.


An anchor baby is NOT a REAL American because his PARENTS are ILLEGALS!

Makes you want to take a shower, doesn't it, to wash all this hate off.

Alfred Rascon could be considered what these haters call an "anchor baby", a child born in America to undocumented immigrants. Before he was 18, he convinced his parents to sign a release form allowing his entrance into the U.S. Army. During the Vietnam War.

He trained as a medic. And in a crucial battle, this American of Mexican descent shielded his wounded comrades from gunfire and grenade shrapnel and allowed for their rescue. He refused to be evacuated for his wounds until his comrades were first transported out on the rescue helicopter.

For his heroism and action beyond the call of duty, Rascon received the Medal of Honor -- one of more than 40 Hispanics who have been so recognized for life-saving gallantry on the field of battle for the red, white and blue.

Wake up, America, and reject the venom of the haters who would even denigrate an Olympian for winning a gold medal for his and our country. Brush off their historical bigotry lest it settle in your consciousness like a cancer. Embrace the embracers of the American Dream of all colors, creeds and ethnicities.

Our nation has been and will continue to be better and stronger for it.

Tough times at The Tennessean are cause for support of the many good people there

With all the difficulty that Tennessean employees have faced in waiting through a weekend over upcoming layoffs, the best thing we can do for them is to express our support and prayers.

Ten people will be laid off. News on who will be cut is expected tomorrow. Forty jobs that have gone unfilled will be eliminated.

I can only pray for the good folks there that those who are laid off will be able to navigate a trying job market in an economic recession.

When I lost my job at The Tennessean in Aug. 2007, it was one of the most difficult times of my life -- emotionally and financially. The following months brought our household close to economic ruin as my medical bills for leukemia continued to mount. So I am hoping and praying for better for my colleagues.

One thing these good people don't need is the kind of smart-ass blogging from the Nashville Scene's Pete Kotz and P.J. Tobia. If any newspaper in Nashville is the victim of the ills of corporate journalism, it is the Scene in the hiring of Kotz. That corporate decision has produced changes at the Scene that make it resemble more of a weaker version of a Gannett newspaper.

Big space has been given to tomato festivals, while Not Necessarily the News has been missing in action. The edge the Scene once possessed under Liz Murray Garrigan has been reduced to a dull blade under Kotz. The corporatization of the Scene since Garrigan left has been sad to watch.

So to my friends at The Tennessean, keep your heads up. I know you don't have good leadership there at the top, but you've made the best out of a bad situation. Your dedication to your craft is to be admired.

If any of you need any help in your transition into layoff, drop me a line, and I'll share with you what I have learned about keeping benefits as long as possible and seeking opportunities.

If anyone is setting up a fund to help those who are being laid-off, please let me know, and I'll contribute and publicize it.

Each of you and your families are in my thoughts and prayers, and those of my wife, too.

Metro Charter limits on damages don't mean squat in federal district court but a lot of patience does

A reader showed he or she was not listening during 8th Grade Civics class with his response to my previous blog on Mrs. Juana Villegas (DeLaPaz) and the torture she and her newborn suffered at the hands of Nashville law enforcement authorities.

I wrote that the next step in her case would be the filing of a big-dollar lawsuit against Metro taxpayers, the mayor, sheriff and Berry Hill authorities. The reader responded that Mrs. Villegas could only collect up to several hundred thousand dollars according to limits under the Merto charter. The reader also called Mrs. Villegas a criminal, which somehow excuses what was done to her.

WRONG, a mundo, as The Fonz was fond of saying on the old sitcom Happy Days.

There is something called federal court. And Nashville has one downtown. Often, when civil rights of an individual are greviously violated, lawsuits are filed against the offenders in this court.

In this court, Metro's legal limit on damages doesn't mean squat. Federal law supersedes local law when it comes to matters of civil rights.

Mrs. Villegas can sue for actual damages and for emotional damages, also known as punitive damages. A federal jury -- that would have to include some mothers -- would hear her case. They are not bound in delivering an award of whatever size by the Metro Charter.

Now Metro can appeal any jury decision and damages awarded. And that makes such lawsuits difficult to advance, even just to get the facts of a case adjudicated let alone get damages awarded.

For instance, Metroplitan Nashville is the defendant in a lawsuit over an alleged wrongful firing in 2002 of a school district employee. The plaintiff, Vicky Crawford, claims that she was fired after participating in an internal sexual harrassment investigation of a district executive.

That case has been going on for six years now. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, from which a decision is expected following the summer recess on a part of civil rights law upon which Crawford is trying to sue.

The facts of the case still have not been heard by a court. And obviously, those facts are in dispute. Metro claims no wrongdoing.

Vicky Crawford is supported in her interpretation of civil rights law that should allow her lawsuit to go forward by a prominent local law firm and the law school for the University of Washington. The Bush administration also supports her position as far as the law allowing her lawsuit to go forward -- not the facts of the case.

A favorable ruling for Crawford would return the case to the local federal district court for ajuducation of allegations. If Crawford wins on the facts, then damages would be decided. But any kind of decision on either matter could still be some time away.

So that's about how simple and complicated it is in filing a civil rights lawsuit. Anyone can sue for anything. But getting damages -- even beyond the Metro Charter limit -- requires a lot of endurance no matter how strongly one feels they have been wronged.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama paints himself into a corner with VP pick this week for Democratic ticket

Sen. Barack Obama continues to make the 2008 presidential race close, this time with his bumbling and stumbling over Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Now he is left with poor choices for a running mate this week because of his ineptness on foreign policy.

The Democrat should pick a woman as a runningmate. Sen. Hillary Clinton's historic candidacy needs to be recognized by more than a roll call vote at the upcoming Democratic primary.

But his silly first response to Russia's invasion by criticizing Sen. John McCain's campaign having a lobbyist for Georgia has now made the need for a foreign-policy heavy VP pick a must. And undecided voters like myself are left cold.

Former Sen. Sam Nunn is not my choice to be one heartbeat from the presidency. Sen. Joe Biden lost in the primary, so why would I want him now? Sen. Evan Bayh looks like the right, clean cut candidate. But what has he done in Congress to distinguish himself other than hold a Senate seat in red state Indiana?

The 2008 presidential race is far from historic if three white men are the finalists for be Obama's VP. Women -- who do the most voting in this nation -- get denied again.

Obama has made this race closer than it need be. And his VP choice this week will not be that great of a help in opening up a big lead over McCain.

Mrs. Villegas' torture case far from over; now comes the mega-million-dollar lawsuit and pursuit of criminal changes against Nashville authorities

The next big event in the torture case of Mrs. Juana Villegas (DeLaPaz) following the dropping of all local, traffic tickets against her will be a lawsuit -- for millions of dollars ultimely payable by the taxpayers of Davidson County.

Named on the lawsuit will be Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, Metro Mayor Karl Dean and a few other folks with titles of authority. These officials represent you the taxpayers of Nashville. And you pay for their wrongs that go against the sense of common decency and the constitutional protections of the United States of America and the state of Tennessee.

Metro Nashville will automatically have to incur legal fees just to fight the lawsuit. That's going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And even a settelment of the lawsuit, which would be best for Nashville, will have to be at a seven-figure amount. And taxpayers will have to pay that in a very tight budget year.

Such is the cost of public policy under the 287g deportation program that was not needed here, except for Hall's political career. Such is the cost of policy that is put into the hands of the Keystone Kops of Berry Hill, which is notorious for supporting its government with speed traps. This time, the trap was sprung on them.

So taxpayers will have to determine with 287g and politicians like Hall and Dean whether deporting people who are committing no violent crime is worth millions of dollars in public money that could have gone for public services. All charges against Mrs. Villegas' were dropped Friday concerning any violation of traffic laws and not possessing a driver's license.

The ACLU, which is investigating obvious racial profiling in this case, will also get involved legally. It will either petition the local U.S. attorney to file federal charges against the Berry Hill Police Department and Sgt. Timothy Coleman for violation of the new federal law against racial profiling or violation of Mrs. Villegas' civil rights and that of her newborn son -- an American citizen. Civil rights violations would most assuredly include the sheriff's department, too.

In addition, Sgt. Coleman's record will be investigated for similiar wrongs concerning people of color. A Berry Hill judge would not allow Mrs. Villegas's attorney to question Coleman on Friday about his record.

All that we do know now is an unnecessary arrest was made of a very pregnant woman before July 4, 2008. The video on Coleman's patrol car did not work to back up his contentions. He did not explain to Mrs. Villegas what she was being arrested for. He put Mrs. Villegas' three children in the control of a relative she did not agree to take the children, thus putting them at risk. And he set in motion the torture she and her newborn would endure at the hands of the sheriff's department.

While Mrs. Villegas still faces deportation for being illegally in the country, she still can collect a substantial award from Mexico and live comfortably there with her husband and her four American children. She can also return here to testify in criminal proceedings against Nashville authorities. And the abuse of her newborn was committed against an American citizen.

So her case is far from over. And as long as politicians like Dean and Congressman Jim Cooper continue to support Hall's 287g deportation program, they continue to put Metro taxpayers at risk. Mrs. Villegas' case was not an isolated one for Nashville Hispanic families. It was just one that finally got the needed media coverage to make an initial difference.

Now, let justice be done.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Criticism of Bredesen over THP right on target; the emperor indeed has no clothes

Kudos to Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr for criticizing Gov. Phil Bredesen over his failure to keep his promise to clean up the sexual harrassment and corruption mess at the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Kerr rightly cited the danger to women stopped on Tennessee's highways and Bredesen's seeming indifference for so long to the threat. The Volunteer State's good 'ol boy system allows such overt sexism to exist in so many forms including sex acts with porn stars and sexual harrassment of female truck drivers. Then there are instances of traditional corruption.

The entrenchment of this Little Shop of Horrors in our law enforcement system makes everything even more reprehensible and disgusting.

Such sharp criticism of the governor is somewhat new for Kerr. She has been a strong supporter of his policies as Nashville mayor and now as Tennessee's governor. So Bredesen really has nowhere to hide on this failure cited by Kerr.

Bredesen is most weak when it comes to issues involving people, which by definition is what politics is all about. The governor is quite adept at giving away tax dollars for big deals, most recently with Volkswagen. But as writer Jeff Woods of the Nashville Scene rightly pointed out in his thorough "Philbot 3000" cover story last week, the governor suffers from an attention deficit disorder. He lacks concentration on matters beyond the moment. He now shows fatigue at being governor. It really doesn't seem to interest him anymore.

And if people outside of corporate executives are involved, he gets most uncomfortable and distant.

Former Scene editor Liz Murray Garrigan confessed her deep disappointment with Bredesen as a policymaker and moral figure in a column earlier this year. More and more local and state journalists are discovering the emperor has no clothes.

I hope that a Tennessean story earlier this week about the abject failure of the state of Tennessee to prepare its children for college will encourage Kerr to reconsider a previous column. It touted the good of Bredesen and Mayor Karl Dean working together to run Metro public schools.

Reporter Jaime Sarrio wrote: Fewer than one in five Tennessee high school graduates left school this year ready to go on to college, based on the test most take before continuing their studies.

For the third year in a row, Tennessee students taking the American College Test averaged 20.7 of a perfect score of 36 — lower than the national 21.2 average. The ACT determines college readiness.

Results for individual schools and districts will not be available until the state report card is released in November.

Students who meet test benchmarks, which are different for every subject, have a better shot of passing core college-level courses, according to the ACT's high school profile report released today.

The ACT is the test of choice in Tennessee and several other states. The SAT is the other widely known college entrance exam. Results show the majority of the state's 50,000 test takers will not be ready for algebra or biology. And, despite English scores above the national average, only 18 percent of students will be ready in the four subjects covered by the test — reading, math, English and science.

The story is shocking. Taxpayers should question if they're getting their money's worth. And Bredesen has been at the helm of Tennessee education for six years now.

So his takeover of Metro public schools should be greeted with horror. The man failed Metro children with his core curriculum program as mayor. As governor, he simply has spread his mismanagement.

THP, state education, TennCare, sales tax holidays, state employee layoffs, $11 million in state money for a political theme park under the governor's mansion, cutting home health care for the most vulnerable ... the list is growing longer of failures by a political figure who has been given so much support for so little in return.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tortured Nashville mother begins journey for justice Friday

Mrs. Juana Villegas (DeLaPaz) takes her first step toward justice for her torture and the abuse of her newborn in a court hearing this Friday in Berry Hill.

Berry Hill is a governmental entity inside the Nashville city limits and Davidson County border. It was there, three days before she was scheduled to deliver her fourth child, that Mrs. Villegas' inhumane treatment at the hands of local law enforcement authorities began.

A video report by WKRN Channel 2 contains an initial statement from the county sheriff's department that Mrs. Villegas was stopped by Berry Hill police for driving a vehicle without an operator's license. Since the vehicle was moving, that would make the stop by Sgt. Timothy Coleman to be one of racial profiling. That's against the law.

The sheriff's department takes all people arrested -- no matter the reason -- and holds them for the courts. If you are an expectant mother and have a previous non-violent record, you're in for a hell of an experience. And if you're in this country without proper documentation, then you are even more at risk because of the 287g deportation program.

The sheriff's department, in a response to a post on this blog, now says its initial statement on why Mrs. Villegas was initially stopped was a mistake. You can go to the blog post for last Thursday and check out the video and various comments,

Mrs. Villegas will be arraigned on a charge of reckless driving, with by reported accounts seems to point to passing a vehicle in the wrong lane. Such is the threat Mrs. Villegas posed to safe and secure Nashville.

Some well-meaning advocates of Mrs. Villegas are asking for a massive turnout at the hearing. I do not know if that is wise. All you'll get is a like crowd of people on the other side of this matter. And Mrs. Villegas will be further embarrassed for a much broader wrong she did not bring on herself.

I'll keep you updated on her situation and any need for you as a person of conscience to act. Mrs. Villegas' case is part of my agenda, as it has become for people across this area and country who do not believe in expectant mothers being treated so cruelly by a nation supposedly under God.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Contact your Metro Nashville council member now and urge support of Councilman Steine's courageous resolution tonight

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition(TIRRC) issued the following statement concerning tonight's Metro Nashville Council meeting and an initiative by Councilman Ronnie Steine.

Authored by Catalina Nieto with TIRRC, the following statement outlines the reasoning behind Councilman Steine's resolution, hopefully pushed tonight, putting Nashville's representatives on the record concerning the English-Only referendum petition driven by Councilman Eric Crafton.

All Davidson County residents are encouraged to call their council representatives and urge support of Councilman Steine's courageous resolution. The following council member names were added at the end of the statement for specific contact. If you can go to the meeting, be there by 5 p.m. to get a seat.

I'll add a personal note: if you don't live in Davidson County, still contact these council representatives as a frequent visitor to Nashville who spends money here or is considering Nashville as tourism/convention/meeting destination.

Councilman Ronnie Steine has put before our City Council a resolution that will be brought to the floor of the Council for consideration and vote Thursday August 6, 2008. The purpose of this resolution is to request that the citizens of Nashville and Davidson County not sign the English-only Charter amendment petition cards and not support it if placed on the ballot.

The people of Nashville deserve to know where the Metro Council stands on the English-only ballot initiative. Councilman Crafton is using his public position as a council member to promote this initiative, and is not acting as a private citizen. Therefore, it is appropriate and necessary for each council member to provide leadership, and clarify his or her position on whether Nashville needs an English-only charter amendment. When explaining the reason for his English-only campaign, Crafton himself has argued that actions of the Metro Council are a good way to gauge public support for this effort.

The English-only ordinance that Mayor Purcell vetoed in 2007 was bad for Nashville . The current English-only ballot initiative is much worse, with no exceptions for public health or safety. The English-only ordinance that passed the Metro Council in 2007 (and was later vetoed by Mayor Purcell) included an important exception: “when necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare." The current English-only ballot initiative is absolutely clear: “all official government communications and publications shall be published only in English.” No exceptions.

Contact these specific council members:

Charlie Tygard
Work Phone: (615) 256-7146
Home Phone: (615) 646-3295
Cell Phone: (615) 243-3295

Carl Burch
Home Phone: (615) 883-3695

"Rip" Ryman
Home Phone: (615) 859-0409

Parker Toler
Work Phone: (615) 376-2952
Home Phone: (615) 373-1512

Sandra Moore
(615) 386-9246

Darren Jernigan
Office: (615) 291-6711
Home: (615) 847-8483

Pam Murray
Home Phone: (615) 248-3556

Erica Gilmore
(615) 862-6780

Vivian Wilhoite
Home Phone: (615) 589-2003

Sam Coleman
Home Phone: (615) 641-5168

Lonnell Matthews, Jr.
Office: (615) 291-6701
Home: (615) 876-2319

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

For this Brentwood resident, Leatherwood is the best choice for Congress

I live in Brentwood, TN., also the home city of "Congressman" Marsha Blackburn.

Tomorrow, I'll be voting for Tom Leatherwood for the Republican nomination for the Congressional seat held by Blackburn. That doesn't mean I'm a Republican. I belong to no political party, but the GOP ballot is really the only one that counts here in Williamson County. And it is my duty to vote.

I've followed Blackburn's career closely. She has definite beliefs, conservative ones. But her handling of finances with the state film office and now her congressional office leaves a troubling picture of a public official telling government to act better than she has with money from the people.

The best way to lead has always been by example.

But the example being left by too many Republican lawmakers across the country has been a negative one. Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has just been indicted for charges showing he is tied too closely to lobbyists and the corrupt system in Washington than the integrity of his office. And that office belongs to the people of this nation, no matter how much pork you bring home to Alaska like the bridge to nowhere.

I don't believe in overlooking wrongs in Democrats or Republicans. I call them all out. And problems in handling someone else's money is a violation of a sacred trust, no matter the excuses.

Yes, all people including U.S. senators are innocent until found guilty. But just as with Operation Tennessee Waltz with the General Assembly, the Feds don't go after someone powerful unless they have all the goods on that person. Stevens is too powerful of a politican to challenge with a poor case of charges.

I'm not saying that Blackburn has or will ever face that kind of problem. She is not accused of breaking the law, just rules of the Federal Election Commission. That she told on herself publicly about breaking the rules does not make up for the years of letters from the FEC asking for correction. Rules that ensure fair elections in our republic -- particularly with finances -- are very important.

The reporting from Gannett News Service of her son-in-law making a big living in the same system in Washington is not against the law either. Neither is her daughter making a living off her campaigns, no matter how much her daughter charged for her business.

But these factors are indicative of a pattern that people in this congressional district would be wise to discourage. You cannot serve two masters -- making money and representing the people. Service requires sacrifice and conduct above question, not allowing family members to get a taste of campaign money and lobbying in Washington.

That may sound unreasonable. But that's the responsibility one must take on in representing the people, or every elected official starts rationalizing away their questionable conduct or that of their loved ones. Then the problems of integrity in Washington become too entrenched with both political parties.

Tennessee House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat, has a wife who makes a living lobbying the General Assembly. That's wrong, even if it is not against the law. And I've written volumes in calling him out. So have Republicans.

Again, none of these things Blackburn has done is against the law. But it is indicative of conduct that can easily grow into something worse when you leave a lawmaker in office too long. They are only human beings. It is impossible to resist the corruption of the system.

Conversely, Leatherwood in the state Senate showed himself as someone who purposely kept himself apart of the system. That didn't make him a lot of friends among powerful Republican colleagues, many of who are still in the General Assembly. But his first duty was to the people he represented, not his political party.

Then Leatherwood left quickly before becoming too much of a part of the system at the General Assembly. His conservative credentials are quite apparent. I've derived my opinion on Leatherwood largely from reporting of John Rodgers with the City Paper. He is one of the best political reporters in the state at a still young age.

Yes, I obivously disagree on some big issues with Leatherwood. But I believe Blackburn's conduct is a warning sign, of someone too long in Washington. It is up to us as voters to open our eyes and sometimes save politicians from themselves.

That's my opinion. It also represents my reasoning behind my vote tomorrow as a citizen of this congressional district and a resident of Brentwood who has watched Blackburn career closely, praised it in the past, but now cannot overlook these warning signs.