Thursday, November 30, 2006

A message from the Boss.

On Election Night, DFA-endorsed candidate Barbara McIlvaine Smith was down by 19 votes in her race for the Pennsylvania state house. She refused to concede, saying, "It is not about winning or losing... It's about making sure our democracy is intact."

Earlier this week the count of absentee and military paper ballots concluded, and Barbara won by 23 votes -- switching the Pennsylvania House from Republican to Democratic for the first time in 12 years.

This powerful victory happened because every paper ballot was counted. But across America votes are increasingly being cast electronically with no paper record. Had the election in Pennsylvania been conducted electronically there is no saying how the race might have been decided.

You helped elect a new Democratic House and Senate in Washington, D.C. It's time to put our majority into action. Ask Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put paper ballots on the agenda in the new Congress's first 100 hours:

http://www.democracyforamerica.com/paperballots

The danger of paperless elections is clear. Look at Sarasota County, Florida. They use paperless touch screen voting machines. In the hotly contested Congressional race there, Election Night ended with Republican Vern Buchanan ahead of Democrat Christine Jennings by less than one-quarter of one percent. This triggered an automatic recount.

On November 20, state election officials certified Buchanan as the winner by 369 votes, despite the fact that there were 18,000 "under-votes" in the county. An under-vote is when a machine reports a vote cast for another office, but not for the Congressional seat. The percentage of under-votes in Democratic leaning Sarasota County was far higher than in surrounding counties. And many voters reported that their votes were not recorded on their electronic ballot. Some said the machine skipped the race while others couldn't find the race listed at all.

Currently this contest is being litigated in the courts. But the results of this election will be forever in doubt because there are no paper ballots to review.

This is unacceptable. Congress has the power to mandate that all elections take place using paper ballots. Ask the new Democratic majority to make it a priority:

http://www.democracyforamerica.com/paperballots

Jim Dean
Chairman
Democracy For America


P.S. Would it kill you to mention Vote By Mail in your comments to Speaker Pelosi?
I am not above buying Pez for those who do....

Demand Change
Brad

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Class Act

I know that I promised y'all when I wrote my first blog post, that I would not do any more sappy, sentimental blog entries, and I fully intended to stand by that promise. However, something is happening this week, and it needs to be acknowledged.

As of Friday, Steve Cohen will no longer be my State Senator. His leaving will be for the greater good, and I can't wait to see what the Congressman does for the city.

The summer of 1992 was a turning point in my life. I had left the really small college I had attended for the past two years due to some personal circumstances, and I was getting ready to start at the really big local university here in town. I was looking for something to keep me sane, and I knew that my exciting venture in retail was not it. In the strip mall across the street from East High school, you could find the Clinton/Gore headquarters, the Harold Ford Sr. campaign, and Steve Cohen's headquarters. I stopped one day to get a Clinton/Gore bumper stricker for my car, and a friend of mine was there. He encouraged me to stay and volunteer for the Presidential campaign. I did. I spent the whole summer working there and I loved it. One day, I wandered down the parking lot to see someone who was in Senator Cohen's headquarters. I had been yelled at, and it was too much for my nineteen year old naive self to handle. Steve convinced me to stay down at his headquarters and work for him. It was the beginning of my political career.

From there, I went to Nashville and I was his legislative intern (I was there first, Marek). After that, I was the only paid staff when he ran for Governor in 1994. In 1996, I worked on his Congressional race. I actually managed the Senate campaign while he ran for Congress, so even though the Congressional race didn't end the way we expected, I actually won that year. This year, of course, I graduated to the lofty and important, Finance Director for Cohen for Congress.

But enough about me ....

Steve is the kind of legislator you want fighting for the issues that you believe in and fighting against the issues you disagree with. My father, the staunch Republican, says that he may not always agree with Steve, but he definitely knows where he is coming from when he votes. He is a man who believes in the Constitution. Not parts of it. All of it. He makes me proudest when he is the lone vote for/against an issue, because I know, without a doubt, that he is taking his responsibility as my State Senator seriously.

Steve is leaving the Senate in the best way possible - he is getting out of the way so that the tax payers don't have to pay for an extra special election. It will allow his replacement time to raise some money before session starts, and Steve will be able to focus on the business at hand. It is the end of an era, and Steve will be missed.

So, thanks Steve, for the memories. Thank you for my Best Actress award from Los Angeles. Thank you for my poster of the Kennedy brothers. Thank you for letting me vote when you had to leave the floor that one time. Thank you for hiring me so that I can be a paid political operative every now and then. Thank you for all of the friends that I made on your campaigns. Thank you for all your good votes and good legislation, and thank you for finally passing the lottery.

Now, about your replacement ...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Does anybody know the meaning of Christmas?

I realize that this is a blog about politics (and promissory estoppel and chitlins (?)).

I also understand (unlike Harold Ford, Sr.) that we do not live in a Christian community (or, for that matter, a Christian nation). However, given that on December 25 of every year, virtually every commercial establishment in the United States of America is closed – no small event in the life of our capitalist nation - anyone not engaged in observing Christmas is forced either to (a) create a unique tradition of their own or (b) knuckle under and pay homage to the holiday.

That means that, by a huge margin, a majority of us are involved (to a greater or lesser extent, voluntarily) in observing Christmas in some way. My anecdotal evidence is that many of us are increasingly bored and disgusted with the typical American observance of the hyper-extended holiday season, starting as it does earlier every year, almost in October by now.

Like the environmental choices we make, how we manifest our “holy days” either helps to preserve us individually and culturally, or it contributes to the squandering of our individual and collective souls. To give the devil his (her?) due, I think this whole thing has gotten out of hand on the watch of the acquisitive Baby Boomer generation. So, one thing you kids can do here is help us help ourselves, ok?

Several years back, I attended a Sunday school class featuring an invaluable book that I commend to you: Unplugging the Christmas Machine: How to Have the Christmas You’ve Always Wanted, by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli.

This class was right after the service where I sang in the choir for 7 years (and I, like Jr.’s mama, dragged and continue to drag the Desinator, Jr. to church with me - who says Democrats don’t have traditional family values?).

Anyway, the point of the book, and class, was to help us:

• inventory the things we do and traditions we impose on ourselves each year in the name of the “Christmas Season”
• determine what, if any, of those activities and traditions have any real meaning for us
• identify our values and roles related to Christmas
• imagine our “fantasy Christmas”*
• and plan how to better align our fantasy Christmas and values with reality during the holiday season.

Several interesting observations resulted. 1) Women by far are the creators and enforcers of holiday traditions. 2) Men by far feel that too much fuss is made at Christmas. 3) We spend too much money and get stressed anticipating the bills. 4) When asked to meditate on *our “perfect” Christmas (anyone you wanted, dead or alive, could be there, or not, as you wished; you could choose the location, activities, weather, food; you could choose which traditions to keep or trash), I and my closest friends in the class all had virtually identical Christmas fantasies that involved getting away together with our nuclear families to a quiet, cold, snowy place where we would have plenty of leisure time together and our kids could play outside and we wouldn’t feel exhausted with all our attempts to create Christmas for everyone.

This all came to mind this weekend as I went around town and found myself being subliminally bombarded with insipid Christmas carols and symbols everywhere, 29 shopping days before Christmas.

The images we are primed to anticipate, to paraphrase from Unplugging the Christmas Machine, are that “our families will be together and we will be happy. Our children will be well behaved and grateful. Spouses and partners will be nurturing, kind, appreciative and generous. We will have enough money and enough time to buy all our presents and to entertain all our friends. We will have fun, be warm, be safe and we will be truly loved.”

Now, far be it from me to be cynical, but it just doesn’t always work out for me that way. You?

So, once again, I am dedicating myself to…

THE CHRISTMAS PLEDGE (adapted from Unplugging the Christmas Machine)

Believing in the meaning and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself:

1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts.

2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents.

3. To rededicate myself to spiritual awareness during this season.

4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true meaning of Christmas.**

5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends.

**To quote noted Christmas expert, Linus, in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and goodwill toward men,' And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Friday, November 24, 2006

MI?: Blogging about Race in Memphis

Bob over at 55-40 has issued a request for comment on this inane Talking Points post featuring a shocking tale of black and white Memphians dining and co-existing peaceably at Interstate Barbecue.

After reading Josh Marshall's profile over on his blog, I think I understand what his problem is. This caught my eye: "Marshall graduated from Princeton in 1991 and holds a doctorate in American history from Brown. He lives in New York City with his wife Millet and their dog Simon [and apparently since that was written, their 5 year old daughter]."

Anyone with that background is far more likely to be intimately familiar with the societal quirks and mysteries of Nantucket in August than a Memphis barbecue joint. I believe the appropriate term for his ilk is "Yankee limousine liberal". If he were anything else, he wouldn't be raving about the "pork ribs" at Interstate Barbecue, he'd be telling us about the barbecue baloney sandwich.

I've always thought that people like that should be made to open hot car door handles full time for a week in August in Memphis.

Update: Mea culpa - Autoegocrat has kindly pointed out that the post was written by David Kurtz, not Josh Marshall. Since I have no information on Mr. Kurtz' provenance and education, I guess we should spare him my suggested YLL punishment although, on second thought, I'm not sure why. Anyone who writes:
I was struck as I looked around at the restaurant's patrons--half black, half white--that this is Memphis. This is the South. So when someone like Bob Corker comes along and runs a race-baiting campaign against a black man like Harold Ford, dredging up old prejudices and old fears, and wins, I am angry and disappointed, but I don't despair the way I used to,
obviously is not our kind, dear. He might as well be pointing out how he was struck in noticing the curvature of the earth that "this is the earth - it is round". It's well educated, intelligent people who know little about Memphis or the South who reduce our culture to a one dimensional world of racism fueled point/counterpoint.

In any event, our blogger could obviously use a little exposure to real life here in the South. First, to help him cope with the shock of what he witnessed - what did he expect, white and colored bathrooms in 2006? Or that the owner would jerk his own daughter up when she and Marshall's white daughter started playing, saying, "honey, we don't play with their kind"?

Second, to alert him to the fact that race is in fact a pervasive and omnipresent factor of life in Memphis in fundamental ways that are much more complex than the demographics of the patrons of a restaurant on any given day.

I've been intending to post on the topic of race relations in Memphis for some time now. From where I sit, it is the single biggest factor affecting Memphis: it has to a large extent directed the physical layout of the Memphis metropolitan area, including DeSoto County, as over time whites have periodically fled their neighborhoods as blacks moved in; it is the primary reason that the Memphis City Schools student population is 86% black (according to this) and only 8.5% white; it has kept us from achieving the economic vitality of other Southern cities like Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta, and has resulted in wealth being concentrated in a small, primarily white, percentage of our population.

There seems to be an automatic suspicion of whites on the part of many blacks, and a desire for avoidance and lack of awareness of the whole issue by many whites. Both groups are overly quick to accuse the other of "playing the race card". During my 46 years living in Memphis, there does not seem to have been any appreciable change in the segregated nature of the private lives of most black and white Memphians, integrated public facilities and workplaces notwithstanding. I'm not sure what it says about our city when the most integrated setting I know of is a Grizzlies basketball game.

Your thoughts? (Keep it civil, please.)

Holiday Productions, Revisited



If you're looking for something a little different to help you get in the holiday spirit (besides that 5 a.m. trip to Walmart Friday), I can recommend two Memphis theatre productions that illuminate the meaning of the season - and won't cause you to feign death to convince your companion to leave at intermission.

Circuit Playhouse has The Santaland Diaries, based on the anti-Christmas cult classic short story by David Sedaris. And the new Hattiloo Theatre on Marshall is offering They Sing Christmas up in Harlem, an African-American adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

In case you don't listen to NPR or read The New Yorker, I'll just mention that Sedaris is one of the funniest writers around. If you haven't read the stories in his memoir, Me Talk Pretty One Day, you should go out right now and buy it - if you want to laugh so hard you will not be able to breathe. This is a guy who can make a visit to Anne Frank's home funny. The Santaland Diaries is David Sedaris' account of his job one holiday season as a Christmas elf at Macy's department store in New York City. It runs Thursday through Saturday nights until December 23.

The Hattiloo Theatre is a new theatre venue in Memphis that, per its website, www.hattilootheatre.org, focuses on "interpreting and illuminating the Black experience through high-quality productions written by Black playwrights, featuring Black casts, and/or including the talents of Black directors, designers, or other theatre artists". I saw They Sing Christmas Up in Harlem tonight, and it was engaging and a refreshing new slant on an old story. It runs Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons until December 24.

What Would Jesus Think?

Jesus' commandment to love your neighbor as yourself apparently isn't the inerrant word of God - at least not to members of the Christian Coalition.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Rev. Joel Hunter, the newly appointed president-elect of the conservative evangelical group, resigned before even taking office after he concluded that
he would be unable to broaden the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said. "They pretty much said, "These issues are fine, but they're not our issues; that's not our base,' " Hunter said.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Eric Keroack

Bush appointed a man named Eric Keroack to be the new chief of family planning for the Department of Health and Human Services. There is one little problem. Mr. Keroack is the medical director for an organization called A Woman's Concern, which "supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts." So, basically, the best person in the country to deal with issues of birth control and family planning according to the President, is a person who only believes married people should have sex and only if they want to have a baby, because they can't use birth control.

Good job, Mr. President.

Luckily, there are some people on the other side of the issue who have some better ideas.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

SteveCo

I found this via Wonkette, and it made me laugh, so I am sharing it with you. The Morning News suggests that we will know Bush is getting along with the Dems when he starts using his famous nicknames on them. The suggestion for Congressman Elect Cohen (doesn't that sound good?) is SteveCo. For some reason, I would love to see that conversation.

Be a Leader

If you're reading this post, chances are you're a moderate or liberal voter who lives in Memphis (or Shelby County). Chances are also that you are one of the many who stop by to read the posts here and on other blogs but don't comment, don't get involved in the discussion. At least, that's what David Holt, the rightful owner of this blog, and other bloggers tell me. According to bloggers with access to site meters, they get hundreds of hits a day, even though sometimes it looks based on the number of comments like the same dozen people talk to each other on the blogs.

That's ok - as I've been told, there are a lot of people who don't feel informed enough or qualified enough to publish their opinions or questions or suggestions for all to see, or who are concerned about getting out there with a position due to their employment or other connections that could be put at risk. I guess it takes someone who has slightly exhibitionist qualities, or the healthy ego that usually accompanies the urge to tell people what the story is, to comment on blogs and, for certain, to blog.

All these different roles on blogs translate pretty well to the political process.

We sorely need good candidates who are willing to put themselves out there and run for office. But candidates also need people to step up and help in their campaigns, people like treasurers, folks who put out signs, call voters on the phone, go door to door, raise money, etc. Not everyone can be the candidate, nor would most people in their right minds want to be.

We've been lucky this year to have several people who were willing to put themselves, their families, their money and their time on the line to run for local office. County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, newly elected Memphis City Schools district 2 board member Betty Mallott, Congressman-elect Steve Cohen, all of whom won their races, come to mind - I know I'm leaving out others but, Lord, we've had a lot of elections this year so I'm just mentioning those who come to mind because I supported them. Just as importantly, there are those candidates who ran and didn't win, including (without limitation, as we lawyers say) all of the Ninth District primary candidates, the countywide candidates for office in August, Bill Morrison and, most famously, Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. All of these folks, whether they won or lost, sacrificed their personal lives, worked overtime and went into financial and personal debt during their campaigns.

There are scores of others who helped all of the candidates who ran this past year. There are so many that I won't attempt to name anyone in particular, because there are surely many I would miss.

All of these people, including those who worked in campaigns, and didn't run for office, are leaders for change. At some point, they decided to quit sitting out the dance, and decided to go out there and participate.

We need to encourage this culture of leadership. We all like to complain and pontificate about the sorry state of our government (although after last week, Democrats can look forward to being, we hope, a lot happier), whether that government is national, state or local. Many of us tend to feel like there is little we can do to change things.

But that's not so. Until Steve Mulroy and Betty Mallott decided to run for office, they were just minding their own business teaching law and volunteering at Ridgeway High School, respectively. Steve Cohen occupied a comfortable seat in the state legislature. Ed Stanton was practicing law at Fed Ex. Marvell Mitchell was running a successful business. Tyson Pratcher was working for Hillary Clinton. There was something that impelled them to give up that comfortable situation and run for office - and it must have been a feeling that something needed to be done and that they were just as capable as the next guy of doing it.

If you want change, start thinking now what you can do to be a leader in making it happen. The next regular elections (for Mayor and all of the City Council seats) don't take place until next October. So you have plenty of time to mull it over, talk to people who might want to run, decide whether you are such a person, or find out how you might get involved to help someone who is going to run for office.

Your role can be a lot or a little, but in either case, you will be a leader. Then, as you sit in your office, or in class, or at your child's soccer game, or at a dinner party, you can feel like you have some control over how your community works and how that affects your life.

Think about it. More on this later.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans' Day

Come Veterans' Day I sat in the stands in my dress blues
I held your mother's hand
When they passed with the red, white and blue
One minute you're right there ... and something slips...


On Veteran’s Day, we’re supposed to remember. Everyone says they honor the men and women that have served this country. I guess most people mean it, even if they have a funny way of showing it. One of my earliest memories of knowing a veteran was some time in the 80s, and a friend too me to a picnic. There was a man there that just sat and stared at the kids on the swing set, a distant, sad smile on his face. When we asked what was wrong with him, my friend’s parents just said that he was “shell shocked”. This was a new concept to me. I had no idea what it really meant, except that this man wasn’t really able to function normally. We now call this “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, and as an adult, I have a better idea about what a nightmare this condition must be.

But does our increase in understanding of the things a veteran deals with show in our actions as a nation? If you look at the legislation passed by Congress in the last few years, the answer is no. But for some reason, Republicans enjoy the perception that they are the ones that care about our military. They are the ones that “support the troops”, even though they deny them of all but their most spare needs, and sometimes not even that.

I don’t see many people actually following through with the “Support Our Troops” magnets on their cars. Something about a magnet itself is insulting. It’s as if they are saying, “I support the troops, but not enough to damage the paint on my car and hurt my resale value”. But to them, voting Republican and spending themselves deeper and deeper into debt is equal to patriotism.

I’m sorry, but you can’t say you support the troops, and at the same time vote for politicians who will send our sons and daughters into war without proper armor, or even proper food to eat. Then when veterans return home, they find the Republican Congress has slashed their benefits to the point that finding proper medical care is impossible. Does anyone realize that we already have Iraq and Afghanistan veterans living on the street? Why aren’t we all screaming about this?

Body armor has been an issue for years now. Too many of our troops were sent in with either no body armor, or insufficient body armor that only covers the front. Some said that body armor that only covers the front is better than nothing. This is true only if you happen to get shot in the front. If you are shot in the back, it is worse. Why? Because if you are shot in the back, and you have only frontal body armor, the bullet goes through your body, and ricochets off of the armor. The bullet then goes back through you and tears up your insides.

Every chance they get, the outgoing Republican Congress has slashed veterans’ benefits. Most recently, they cut the already skimpy funding for traumatic brain injury in half. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become the signature injury of this war, as Agent Orange was with Vietnam. Military hospitals screened every wounded service member who had been injured in explosions, vehicle accidents, falls, or gunshot wounds near the neck or face, and found TBI in up to 97% of these cases, the higher percentages being among Marines. (MORE)

With these numbers, one has to wonder who is really “supporting the troops” when Republicans callously slash aid to these guys in the interest of tax cuts for the wealthy. IF you go to the website for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America LINK, you can view their ratings for each Congressman and Senator. Overwhelmingly, Democrats get higher grades on veterans’ and military issues. The methodology of their grading is explained on their site in detail, but basically it is based on several key votes and the effect those votes have on veterans and active military.

It’s heartbreaking. Everything from the body armor situation, to Halliburton feeding our troops expired food (LINK), this country has treated it’s service members worse than dogs. One of my favorite people in the world is my best friend’s grandfather. His name is Richard Mowery, and he is a veteran of World War II. He was one of the first Marines to land on Guadalcanal, and he later went to Japan. In Japan, he lost his leg.

Several years ago, Mowery was contacted by a man who was writing a book about the Marines on Guadalcanal. He talked to the man a lot, and related a lot of his memories of the time. One of his memories was of about one of their commanding officers becoming seasick on the boat, and as soon as they hit land he went into the bushes to vomit. They advanced into the jungle and never saw him again. All that time, over sixty years, Mowery had assumed the officer had been taken care of by the medics. In truth, the author said, he had been killed when he wandered away from the company.

Now 85, Mowery (we all call him Grandpa) has moved to Nashville to live with his granddaughter (who is my best friend) and her children. There was a time in her childhood when she didn’t have a stable home, and he and his wife had stepped up and took her in for two years. The time she spent living with her grandparents was one of the only stable times in her childhood. Bringing him to live with her family was a no-brainer.

He’s quite able and in pretty good health. His missing leg is not a disability and does not stop him from getting around. He drives, gets around the house either on crutches or in a rolling office chair, and he plays the organ and loves spending time with his great-grandkids, as well as visiting family and friends. I think of him on veterans’ day because the time he opened his home to a somewhat neglected nine year old girl is probably the only reason my friend is not a deeply troubled adult. His military service is just one part of his life. But I can say for sure that he has indeed made the world a better place through sacrifice, and a loving, open hearted approach to the world.

Here's to you Grampa!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Join the Final Push for Living Wage.

**I really hope that everyone who cares about this important issue will please try and find the time to attend. In the past two years, I have watched the LW movement grow and make REAL progress for the people of this city. These guys worked very hard, and I am really proud to be a part of this coalition.
Brad

After more than 3 years of community action, the
City Council will hold its final vote on the living wage
for workers on city contracts
Tuesday, November 21st

City Council Final Vote on Living Wage for City Contractors
Tuesday, November 21st
4:00 p.m.
125 N. Main St.
We will hold a brief prayer vigil inside City Hall before attending the vote.

Please join us to help the hard-working people who keep our City buildings
clean and secure win a living wage.
We expect this to be a close vote - your presence is critical!
Help make Memphis the first Tennessee community to pass a living wage ordinance.

Wear your living wage tee-shirt or something else red. Need a living wage tee-shirt?

Make an on-line donation of $15 or more,
and we'll send you one; or call us at 332-3570 to order one.

What is happening with temporary City workers? The Council's Personnel Committee discussed this week whether temporary City workers should be paid a living wage. While there seems to be some resistance on the Council to paying temporary workers $12 an hour (which we have suggested because they receive no benefits), there are several Council members who seem willing to raise temporary workers to $10 per hour, which is the minimal amount all full-time City workers must be paid. The Personnel Committee will vote on Nov. 21st on a proposal to bring temporary workers up to $10 per hour. Call your Council members now, or join us at the committee meeting. If you want to be notified of when the committee meeting will be, send Rebekah an email at msinterfaith@yahoo.com and she will send you the Council committee schedule as soon as it becomes available.
Confused about the status of the Living Wage ordinance? For an easy to read chart that shares the victories we've won and the areas the Council is still debating, go to: http://www.midsouthinterfaith.org/index/living_wage/current_action.htm

Rev. Rebekah Jordan
Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice
3035 Directors Row, Building B, Suite 1207
Memphis, TN 38131
(901) 332-3570
(901) 332-3532 (fax)
msinterfaith@yahoo.com
www.midsouthinterfaith.org
Make a secure online donation to the Mid-South Interfaith Network at: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?id=2312

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Vote By Mail for Tennessee-Part One

Hello all, of course I am on cloud nine just like everyone else over the Democratic victory last night, as everyone else has pretty much covered it, let me just say....HELL YES!
Now, yesterday was also a day that opened a lot of people's eyes to some of the serious problems related to electronic voting. Memphis was no exception, thankfully there SEEMS to be no major problems with the RESULT this election....I guess we have already had our turn. At any rate this summer DFM's Frank Burhart-Polar Donkey brought up the idea of Oregon's Vote By Mail system at a DFT issues retreat in Nashville. After looking over the facts that came out of the research, we were amazed at how accurate, cost effective and simple the solution really is.
Democracy For Memphis and Democracy For Tennessee have endorsed and will be working on a long term project for Tennessee Vote By Mail. VBM, is cheaper, more secure, and increases voter turn out, and since adoption the Oregon model has had a strong following of support across political,economic and racial lines. This is a serious problem and despite all of our ideological variations, we all are concerned about the sanctity of the American vote. A week ago VBM was concidered obscure and radical,today after the myriad problems made manifest on election day we now sit at a time where VBM is quickly gaining momentum in many parts of the nation.
**Back in September I submited research and a power point presentation on VBM to the Shelby County Democratic Party Executive Committee. I am thrilled to announce that the local Party has also endorsed exploring a VBM system for Shelby County and Tennessee. I want to thank my fellow committee members, for their support, offers of help and insightful questions. Personality Cults and Racial hostility have deeply divided this Party, Issues, like Vote By Mail, and JUST CAUSE can unite it. To continue electoral success Democrats need to focus on doing the one thing that will assure future success....and that is to help make people's lives better. We do not need new slogans, or silly nick nacks to win, we have to reconnect to the Memphis/Shelby County community and let them know that they are the ones who we are fighting for.
We Democrats are going to bring a VBM system for this County and this State to secure our voting system and renew voter confidence.
We Democrats are going to pass Just Cause laws on the local and state level to protect the rights of working people.
.....it may take a long time, but I have got nothing better to do.

Finally, on behalf of the State Steering Committee of Democracy For Tennessee want to thank SCDP Chair Matt Kuhn for his support for exploring VBM, and his "Shout out" to VBM on the Mayor's Council Show. "See, people really do watch those shows." The Chair and I have not always agreed, but I want to personally thank him, and am glad that we both feel that this issue can be something of real value to not only Progressives and Democrats but this entire community.
In the coming year DFM and hopefully the SCDP and any other collection of letters that want to join in will be hosting a series of informational Town Hall meetings on this subject, to not only inform the public about VBM, but to open the doors to conversations that could also lead the way to other potential reforms like Publicly Financed Campaigns , or stronger local Campaingn Finance Reform....well..I can dream.
At any rate anyone who is curious about VBM please Email me at Brad@democracyformemphis.com. I will be happy to send you a copy of the power point presentation, and our VBM background information packet as well.

Demand Change

Next....

AP: Hastert won't seek House leader post

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent 22 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Triggering a post-election shake-up,
Dennis Hastert announced Wednesday he will not run for leader of House Republicans when Democrats take control in January.

zen...

I am happy.

Really. I had no idea what a weight I was carrying around until this morning whet I got out of bed and almost hit the ceiling. Is this happening?

But we cant afford to become complacent. We all love our newly elected Congress. But we have to stay on top of them. We all need to keep up with what they are doing. Pay attention to how they are voting, and call them on it he we dont like what we are seeing.

Its called Democracy. We have to keep it up.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Let me just says hugs and love to everyone, everywhere to cover the sappy, life-is-great feelings we all are having and posting about right now. Everyone else beat me to it, so I'll save you my exhilaration. You know how I feel. You feel the same way.

Now comes the hard part. We won. Now let’s govern. Now we need to push forward an increase in the minimum wage, improved access to healthcare, sane energy policies, stem cell research, a change in strategy in Iraq, real ethics reform, etc. We need to reach out and show the country what adult leadership is like. Forget impeachment. Let’s focus on issues. Let’s focus on improving life for real Americans who aren’t corporate titans. Let’s make Bush veto bills that have such popular support that his own mother will be embarrassed for him. Let’s run away from the temptation to be the new K-Street party that replaces the old K-Street party. We all need to lend our support to our Democratic leaders who are going to make this happen.

Most of us have been working our butts off for months. We’ve had three elections in a short period of time. We could all use some time off. Take it. Enjoy it. Now get back to work. I have to focus for the next month on law school finals, so I am leaving my blog in the very capable hands of some great Democrats. When I come back, I want to start putting more focus on issues that I care about. I also want to focus on some of the big stories coming down the pike in Memphis. The new executive committee will be elected in March and April. We need to elect a strong committee that can work together, and I want to be a part of that process. The 2008 elections are coming faster than you think, and we need to be ready. I will be running for reelection. I’ve learned a lot in the year and half I have served as vice-chair. The main thing I want to try to implement in the next term is an internship program. Steve Cohen’s campaign has shown how well college interns can be used in local politics. Now, instead of putting them in a big Congressional race, imagine a team of interns working for the whole slate of party candidates. Imagine the effect 4 or 5 interns could have on a small race like County Commission District 5 or a close race like Shep Wilburn’s. I want to see what the party can work out with local universities to get students working with the party for credit. It’s a win for everyone. The party gets a degree of manpower it didn’t have before, the students gain experience and credit, and we groom future leaders. I have tons of other ideas, but that is the one I am most excited about.

We also need to elect a good Democrat to replace Steve Cohen in the state senate. I plan on being involved in that race and already have a name in mind. We’ll cover that issue when it’s time, but it will be a fun race. The mayor’s race may be interesting, but I expect I know the result already. I probably will stay out of that race, but I expect the city council will have some exciting races. More likely than not, Carol Chumney will be leaving her seat, and this district is always an exciting one. Finally, the Presidential race starts today. Let’s see if we can get 1 or 5 of them down here for some Kennedy Day-type events so the next committee starts with a bank account. The race will be interesting, and I’m sure we’ll all be quite opinionated when the time comes.

So goodbye. I’ll see you again some time around Dec 15. Until then I need to be productive. Be nice to my replacements, and feel free to call them names. Also assume that they don’t speak for me. They’re all bossy, opinionated rabble-rousers who I should never want to be associated with. That’s why I love them and invited them. I expect they will all show me up quite often (they already have,) but my ego is so massive that I can take it. So, without further ado, let’s give a warm West Tennessee Liberal welcome to Desi, Brad, Meg, Don, Dabney, and John. Thanks so much, you guys rule.

WHOOHOO! Here we go!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006 -- 1:00 PM ET
------------------------------------------------------------

Rumsfeld Intends to Resign, G.O.P. Officials Say

Donald H. Rumsfeld intends to resign after six years as secretary of defense, Republican officials told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/?emc=na

Like I said, The Future of Shelby County Politics Starts Today

First things first:

CONGRATULATIONS, CONGRESSMAN COHEN!

Doesn't that sound sweet?

I will be interested to see what the Shelby County precinct vote totals show regarding the breakdown by race, both in this race and in the Senate race. Here's hoping there is racial crossover that will truly prove that we here in Memphis are making some progress together on that front. Many black Democrats believe that, although black Memphians vote for white candidates, whites won't vote for black candidates. So let's see how this shakes out and what it says on that point.

I intend to have a lot to say on the race relations front going forward. It's a conversation we need to have - and not on a blog that trumpets sexual aids being inserted into orifices of local attorneys.

Next, from today's Commercial Appeal:

Democrat Steve Cohen on Tuesday ended the 32-year reign of the Ford political family in the 9th Congressional District.

I have to say that, although that is a wonderful headline to wake up to, Steve didn't end the reign of the Ford political family here all by himself. He had a lot of help from Harold Ford, Sr. and Jake Ford, aided and abetted by Harold Ford, Jr.

Let it soak in. This is a sea change politically for Memphis that cannot be overstated.

And what it does not mean is that now Memphis has gone over to the dark side (Chism/Herenton). What is means is that we have moved beyond a political machine that values dynasty over merit (I'm not referring to Corker here), that has taken the approach of giving a man a fish instead of teaching a man to fish, that has used its enormous organizational talents and proud constituent service record and huge name recognition to perpetuate its own power, regardless of the damage to, and deterrence of, Memphis political leadership.

I for one hope that we Democrats won't view this as a chance to trumpet one faction's ascension over another's decline. As we Shelby County Democrats move forward, we really need to make the most of this opportunity for change. We have the opportunity now to mold a strong local party that can recruit and support great local leadership and become a real force in Tennessee. Let's quit the conniving and bickering and use this historic change in dynamics and power to unify and forge success.

We Won!

I was really excited when David sent me an invitation to join his blog, but I decided to wait until the day after Election Day to make my first post, because I didn't want to do anything to interfere with the campaign. The campaign is over now, and I wanted to use my first post to say thank you.

Kevin - You ran an awesome campaign. I have had so much fun working with you on this one. Your passion for politics and your ability to break down the nine square box is amazing. I am looking forward to the next project, and I wish you only the best.

Liz - Wow. Who knew an art school grad could kick ass and take so many names? You have toppled a machine by going door to door and it was amazing to watch. The next shot of the "dirtiest nastiest stuff they got" is on me.

Craig - You are great, and I am so glad we got to spend so much time together. You drove down from Nashville and helped out so much. I can't wait to watch you take over DC. You still owe me a game of Scrabble, though.

Marek - What can I say about you? You brought in all of these interns and got them excited about politics, while harassing them with your facebook messages. The campaign would have been completely boring without you. You are going to go far in politics, and I will one day be able to say that I knew you when.

Brittany - You were a fabulous intern. You picked everything right up, and saved me a bunch of headaches. I told you all of this last night at the party, but I really do mean that anything I can do to help you I will.

Alex, Christy, Cristan, Crystal, Daniel, Duncan, Erica, Jeremy, Jessie, Jonathan, Katie, Kenneth, Michael, Norvell, Savannah, Stephanie, Tyler, and William - the fall interns - Y'all rock! You knocked the ball out of the park and did everything we asked you to do. Y'all have given me hope for the future of Democratic politics, and I have no doubt that y'all will all change the world.

Rick, Pam, Chris, Derek, David, Steve - the merry band of bloggers - y'all have entertained me on a daily basis. Thank you all for your support and your friendship. I am in awe of your collective talents, and I thank you for sharing it with me.

I also wanted to say thank you to all of the volunteers, the voters, and everyone who had even a tiny part in this campaign. We did it!

If I left someone out, please know that it was not my intention to do so, but my brain is still a little fuzzy from last night.

My posts won't always be this sappy and sweet. There are plenty of issues that get me fired up, and I promise to talk about them soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Helpful Remainder

Brought to You By Everyone's Favorite Corrupt Machine:





This Berclair White Devil thanks them for their help.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Goodnight Irene

Ok, so here we are, like the night before Christmas, and all the posting and trash talking are done. We all have had the chance to give our two cents, or at least enough of it for others to understand, so All Glocks Down! To be honest, I was just about to turn off the computer and watch DEXTER, but before that I just wanted to say to all of the Democrats, Progressives, Liberals, Fed-upers,Socialists,Free Thinkers,Sharks, Jets, Alliance, Horde,Breathmint, Candymint...etc. That I wish you all the best of luck tommorrow. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. I also thought that we needed a little something to lighten the mood...so here is my small hollow gesture. President Bush's next target in the War on Terror.

The Future of Shelby County Politics Starts November 8th

No matter what happens in the Tennessee Senate race tomorrow (it seems that, at best, it's going to be a nail biter - I'm a glass half full kind of girl), those of us who are focused on Tennessee and, specifically, Memphis year round will have a short quiet period ahead in which to focus on a series of important upcoming political events.

*The 2007 county Democratic convention will be in March/April.

The period since the August, 2005 convention has been filled with a lot of chaos and commotion, some learning and some accomplishments by the executive committee. I have sensed some settling in lately after a turbulent first year.

The new committee members have been learning the tricks of the trade, i.e., how procedural rules and strategies work, and the old timers have been adapting to the change in the group's dynamics and focus as a result of the 2005 convention.

All of us have been getting to know - and sizing up - and building glue - with members of the executive committee and local politicos who are not part of our "factions", and bumbling through learning how the dynamics work given the diversity of the executive committee elected in 2005.

Progress has been made, but the glue building work needs to continue.

I'll have a whole lot more to say about the upcoming county convention going forward. For now, I'll just mention that it would be really fine if the various groups and factions could agree on the desired attributes of the Chair and, in fact, on a consensus candidate for Chair.

That done, we could focus on electing a great committee and be assured that those running are doing it based on their own interest in serving, and not just to get their faction's candidate elected as chair.

*Then, in October, 2007, the entire City Council and the city Mayor will be elected. Lots of opportunities in these races to have a major impact on Memphis leadership. Candidate recruitment/endorsement efforts should become a major focus of local Democratic/progressive groups, beginning Wednesday.

*Last but not least, we have 2008 to look forward to. It will be here before you know it. And whoever is elected to the Democratic executive committee (and as Chair) in 2007 will be involved in local party leadership during the Presidential election cycle.

I know we've all been focused on tomorrow since August 4 and before. But there actually will be political life here in Memphis after tomorrow.

Whatever happens, there will be victories to celebrate and post-mortems to conduct. Tomorrow's results should not cause us to lose focus on all we can do to affect local politics in the next year or two.

And, as we know, all politics is local.

Link to Whole Corker Ad...

Here is a link to the entire ad being sent out by Common Sense Ohio on Corker's behalf:

LINK

The context doesn't help much, as I think the first line packs the whallop. Note how the T in TERROR is faded out. Making it look like ERROR. I don't know if that is supposed to be some kind of subliminal message or what.

Corker Gets Worse...

I gasped. It's worse than the stupid "call me" ad. This from TN Guerilla Women, an article on a mailer sent out by Corker, via "Common Sense Ohio". It's got to be the most disgusting thing I've seen all season.





You really have to wonder about the polls showing Corker with such a strong lead. If Corker's doing so well, why are the wingnuts taking such extreme measures? (MSNBC just reported that Ford says USA Today will publish a poll tomorrow showing a much closer race than recent polls have indicated.)



I don't know if I believe that. But Corker is a disgusting piece of shite. That smug little face says it all. He can shrug his shoulders and "who me?" all he wants. He can say he doesn't like the race baiting. But how many times is it going to happen? The lady protests too much. He's a racist pig, even if he gets other people to do his dirty work.


I disagree with Ford on many many things. But I'm glad I voted for him because Corker is evil. Possibly as evil as Frist. Possibly worse. I don't know of any animal torture in Corker's past, as in Frist's, but I suppose there are all kinds of evil.

Latest Tn. Senate Polls

In case you haven't seen them yet...

USA TODAY Gallup state poll results - Tennessee

Likely Voters

Nov 1-4

Ford - 46%
Corker - 49%


RasmussenReports.com

Survey of 500 Likely Voters
November 4, 2006
Election 2006: Tennessee Senate


Bob Corker (R) 51%
Harold Ford, Jr. (D) 47%

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cracker says it's over for Jr. But Wait....

Over at LeftWingCracker, the assessment is that Jr. is toast. (Tried to link to it but, oh, well, I haven't attended my Blogger orientation class yet.)

Most of the commenters are of like mind and are dancing on Jr.'s grave.

Except me:

MyDD's Breaking Blue project links to Political Wire, which reports:

In the face of polls showing his Senate campaign losing momentum, some Political Wire readers in Tennessee are reporting they are receiving recorded calls from Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D) saying that Monday's USA Today will be reporting Bob Corker is only leading this race by 2 percentage points, and that it is within the margin of error. He also stated that tomorrow's Nashville Tennessean will be reporting a similar finding.

Frank Newport confirms that interviewing for the last round of USA Today/Gallup polls was completed on Saturday in Tennessee, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Montana, and Virginia.

Meanwhile, an as-yet-unreleased Rasmussen Reports poll also shows Ford closing the gap and the race becoming a statistical tie once again. Corker leads 51% to 47%.

Per MyDD, Rassmussen has moved it back into "toss-up".

Don't shoot the messenger.

The fat lady hasn't sung yet, and won't until Tuesday night.

Sign this Petition.....come on.....i'll buy you pez.

* At the Kernell event yesterday, I had the chance to talk to Jody Patterson about a variety of topics. She told me about her Unity06 petition, and I thought that it was the right thing to do. I thought that it was really classy of the Kernell camp to go out and not just canvass for their candidate, but for the entire slate. She hopes to get as many signatures as she can, because tommorrow this petition will be presented to all of the Democratic nominees at Democratic Party HQ....so please take a minute and sign.
Brad


We, the undersigned, in the interests of Democratic Unity in order to ensure a complete Democratic Victory in November, do hereby request that all Democratic nominees on the ballot in Shelby County publicly endorse AND support ALL OTHER Democratic nominees on the ballot in Shelby County. Failure to do so may put the ENTIRE Democratic ticket at risk; as the stakes are too high to risk loss of ANY of our Democratic nominees, we ask that this be done NOW.

You can sign at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Unity06

Not a Debate Report

I was really intending to write a summary of the debate last week. But I have just not been able to do it. And now it's really old news and everyone already knows all about it.

I apologize. I too am in school, getting teacher certification in art. The last week has really been killing me. Plus, I somehow ended up being scheduled for a two-day trip to Jackson, TN for some Red Cross training.

But enough excuses.

I think I spent my energy on the last debate post. Every ounce of passion I had was spent there. But I did want to talk about one issue. The infant mortality issue is a BIG DEAL to me. As many of you know, Memphis infant mortality is twice the national average. TWICE! There is simply no excuse for this. Why isn't this in the news every night? Every week? Even every month? And what is being done about it?

I'll tell you. Ab-so-frickin-lutely NOTHING!

With the exception of a few hospitals that are trying to act, it's an uphill battle. No, it's an up-mountain battle. It's Everest. There is absolutely no good reason this should be.

I was a little disappointed that Republican Mark White was the only one who really discussed this issue at the debate. But I have to say that that he seemed to be quite sincere on the issue. He does not appear to be your typical "me me me" Republcan. I still didn't vote for him, but I don't vote Republican, so it's nothing personal.

I missed the heath care forum, and I know that the other candidates have discussed it. Still it seems that this issue should be at the top of everyone's mind. It's something that is really hurting this district. I want to go after it aggressively, but I'm sort of at a loss as to what to do about it. If I had the money and influence, I would open a free family clinic in 38108, but I don't, and I really don't know where to start. I think we all agree that something has to be done. But what?

Improvements in education, health care, job opportunities, and even public transportation would help. But they all take time. What about the babies that are here now? The ones that don't have a regular doctor? Or the women who don't have access to prenatal care now? What can we do for them? It's enough to keep me up at night.

Any candidate for this district should have a solid plan that could be implemented sooner, not later. We all should be doing something, even if it's just calling your representatives.

Voting Machine "Fraud"

I keep hearing on the news about missing smart cards and how voting machines can be hacked into and the totals changed. There's a lot of smoke and allegations, but it seems to me that most of these charges are speaking from ignorance. I worked as an election inspector, and was trained on how to set up and operate the Diebold machines. Every precinct has dozens of smart cards. They must be activated by a poll worker in order for them to work, and the act of voting deactivates them. Deactivated cards are just pieces of plastic. Voters often forget to return them, and busy poll workers don't always collect them after voting.

To abuse the system would require unlimited access to a voting machine, and then one would have to activate, vote, activate, and vote repeatedly hundreds of times to make any kind of impact on an election, and then the tallies of voters who signed the polls vs. votes cast would not reconcile. I saw first hand how the machine reports were produced, and then tabulated. Copies were printed from each machine, and then they were compiled from the 'zero' machine into a master total for the precinct. The people I worked with at precincts in Whitehaven were honest and dedicated individuals who were performing a vital and essentially thankless task.Like most of us, I have seen the video on the blogs about 'hacking' into Diebold machines. Not exactly a first-rate demonstration. I would love to see someone come forward with specific details about how it is done. As I understand it, you would need access to the Diebold software, the Shelby County ballot, and access to unguarded voting machines in order to reset the counters, not to mention a way to reconcile the number of votes on the machine against the number of people who signed the rolls, which would require the complicity of election officials during the hacking process. It already sounds like a large complex conspiracy which would not and could not stay secret in Memphis. People are just too greedy and eager for publicity for anything like this to be kept quiet.

True protection of the vote could be accomplished by implementation of a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, which allows voters to SEE for themselves that their vote is recorded properly. Even more critically, with VVPAT there is a chance for reconciliation between the totals the machine reports and actual votes. Until VVPAT becomes a reality, we have no choice but to accept the machines' reports. The current system does not provide ANY TRUE AUDIT TRAIL. There is simply NO WAY to detect if the machines' reports reflect voters true votes.

The SCDP and the County Commission voted to approve and adopt the VVPAT, but its implementation requires the approval of the state's Coordinator of Elections, Brook Thompson. Thompson will not approve VVPAT. Some think this won't happen until Diebold improves the reliability of the VVPAT equipment. That won't happen until the State and local Election Commissioners demand it. They seem to have little interest in doing so. Since these are appointed positions, it seems that it is up to us to push for the Legislature in Nashville to push for VVPAT for Shelby County....IF we want to make certain ALL votes are counted properly.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Comments, Viewpoints and Causes

I told David Holt yesterday I was really hoping to get some traffic and comments with a post, and I was almost considering posting the question: what do you hate most about the holidays (I thought I could jump in first with some good offerings), but then it dawned on me that a challenging post on Jr. would be a surefire attention getter. Guess so. Many insightful comments, metaphors and viewpoints resulted, and the comments were not ALL from bloggers.

I hope that's an indication that my vision of a high traffic/participation progressive megablog could work. We'll see.

For the record, I absolutely respect the views of those who feel it is an act of prostitution to vote for Ford. I just happen to feel that it is overridingly important to reclaim our country by taking control of Congress if at all possible and, like Jeff, get frustrated at what seems (to me) to be tunnel vision in focusing on one person's views, who will have only one of a hundred votes in the Senate, when there is a six year long epidemic of horrors in the executive branch going unchecked by Congress.

On the electoral vote-map that Dave has linked to on control of the Senate, the polls change daily and sometimes more often. So if one's goal is a Democratic majority, it seems to me that not until Election Day can you give up on any given race. Tuesday will be interesting, that's for sure. When Jake Ford loses and if Jr. loses, I'm bracing myself for Ford, Sr.'s last grandstand. If that happens, I'll try to mind my manners, but I'm not making any promises.

I totally agree with Brad's suggestion that we all should support Bill Morrison and Mike Kernell. Bill's campaign has inspired many local grassroots volunteers to work incredibly hard. After meeting Morrison and hearing him speak, I think he really is someone we could be proud to have as a representative. Whether he wins or not, his campaign contributes to a culture we need to encourage locally: of good people who are regular citizens offering themselves for leadership and public service. What an old fashioned concept!

Also, as Brad alluded to, Mike Kernell needs volunteers. He is aggressively distributing the unified Shelby County Democratic Party ballot, showing support for our Democratic nominees. You may have already received emails about his efforts, but if not, please show up at Garibaldi's today at 12:30 and help do yard signs and leafletting around U of M before going to the Cohen rally at 4.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Get Over It and Go Vote for Jr.

Look, I’m no political expert. I may know more than many voters because of my interest in politics. But there are a lot of people who can cite electoral and political statistics and history far better than I. I don’t know about every single vote or business deal or good deed or alleged impropriety attributed to either Corker of Ford. Nor do I need to.

I’m also no fan of the Ford machine. I grew up in Memphis. I well remember Harold Ford, Sr. He was The Man around here for a long time. I remember him engineering the defeat of Minerva Johnican on the County Commission 20+ years ago because she didn’t act like his stooge. I remember observing the chilling effect Ford, Sr.’s stranglehold on power locally during the Eighties and Nineties had on black leadership. I believe we still suffer as a result here in Memphis – and I am committed to working to elect better Democratic leaders, people who have day jobs, don’t live off developers, and are more interested in this community than their prestige, power and perks.

I remember sitting up the night Mayor Herenton was first elected in 1991 watching Ford, Sr. grandstand at the Election Commission about the absentee vote count and call people like me, a product of East Memphis, “white devils”. I also remember the next morning when I kept to myself, while my white colleagues and clients expressed Armageddon-like prophecies, that I had been one of the 150 or so voters who put the Mayor over the top.

I remember thinking in 1999 when Joe Ford ran against Herenton, time for me to get involved - because if Joe Ford who, by all accounts, seems to be an ok guy, wins, the Ford Machine will be firmly in place as the successor to the Crump Machine for a long time to come. I love my city, and the thought of that was repugnant to me, so I volunteered for Herenton even though I hardly had the time to spare from my job and young family.

I’ll also remember how Sr. came back to town this fall to stir up racial bitterness – for the last time, I hope – by appealing to African-American voters’ fears that a white Congressman wouldn’t represent them and care about them and by promoting Jake Ford’s laughable, transparently manipulative “independent Democratic” candidacy.

I’m supporting Steve Cohen, although before the primary I supported Tyson Pratcher and would have preferred that he had had the chance to go to Washington and begin the era of a new generation of Memphis leaders of whom we could be proud. But Steve, who I consider a longtime friend, won the primary – and got 20% of the black vote. He is eminently qualified to be our Congressman, and is someone whose positions on issues I share (and, puhleez, he is absolutely, positively not gay although, if he were, so what). Bill Clinton said at the Jr. rally earlier this week that Jr.'s election would mean we have gotten beyond race. Well, the same can be said about Cohen's election, and what it would say is about Memphis, right here where we live.

The fact that Jr. hasn’t endorsed Cohen is not as simplistic as it seems, in my opinion, but nevertheless I’m as disheartened with Jr.’s failure to support Steve as I am by his votes on the bankruptcy bill, Terry Schiavo and torture.

So, let’s just say that I’m not the most enthusiastic fan of Jr. and his family. But here’s why I voted for Harold, Jr. and why you should, too.

I work and live around a predominantly white, Republican bunch of good people, people who live segregated lives, many of whom who harbor racial prejudice – although they would be outraged at the allegation – churchgoing folk. Many of them have moved out of Memphis to the county or Mississippi. These are people who share my extreme distaste for the Ford Machine, for the dynasty school of politics.

These are also people who used to proudly sport their W stickers on the back of their SUVs. Now that I think of it, I don’t see as many of those stickers anymore. Most of them, now, two damn years too late, proclaim loudly how disappointed they are in Bush, but they sure as hell gloated in 2000 and 2004 when he was elected.

These are smart, well educated people who probably still don’t realize that Saddam Hussein and Mohammed Atta never met to plot our destruction. They don’t really want to hear it when I mention the revelations in Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial, about the July 10, 2001 meeting that George Tenet and Cofer Black had with Condi Rice wherein they, to paraphrase, did everything but pull the trigger on the gun they put to her head about the urgent threat of Al Queada to the U.S.

I remember working as an Election Protection volunteer in 2004 (admittedly in Miami, not Ohio, and yes, it was very therapeutic to wake up in Miami on Nov. 3, 2004 instead of rainy Akron), and engaging in conversation with total strangers the morning after about how we didn’t know how we could face the next 4 years. And now, only 2 years later, all the idiots (including all these people I like and otherwise respect) who used to sport the W stickers are wringing their hands, and it looks certain that the Democrats will control the House.

Well, we need to control the Senate, too. Go read this article by Carl Bernstein on Senate Hearings on Bush, Now http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/041906Z.shtml. (Sorry, I still don't really know how to attach these links on Blogger.)

It explains better than I can why it is vital that you get over your hurt feelings about our chronic local leadership situation and Jr.’s voting record, and get your ass over to the polls next Tuesday and vote for Ford.

Really, it is not overly dramatic to state that our nation is at a crossroads, and that this presidential administration must be stopped and held to account for all that they have done to our freedoms, our Constitutional system, our young soldiers, our status in the world, our foreign relations, other countries, our environment, our economy, anything I’m missing?

So if you haven’t voted yet – and I’m note sure there are too many left who haven’t already early voted – grow up, go vote for Jr. and do the right thing by your country. We’ll keep working on the local situation, and Ford will be only one lone voice pissing you off in Washington, instead of every single person in power.

Do you really want Dick Cheney breaking the tie in the Senate when, instead, you could be watching him testify before the Senate? Think about it.

Footnote to my post above: Before I get pummeled for saying I like and respect white Republican Memphians who live segregated lives and harbor racial prejudice, let me just add I like and respect many black Memphis Democrats, too, most of whom, as far as I can tell, are in the same boat. Find me a Memphian whose experiences and attitudes have not been significantly affected by race, and I'll contact the Vatican immediately to lobby for their sanctification.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Obama on Meeting the Current Occupant

Obama's chapter on Values in The Audacity of Hope starts with his reminiscence of meeting, as Garrison Keillor calls him, the Current Occupant. The day before he was sworn in as the Senator from Illinois, he attended a White House reception for incoming representatives and senators. After Bush's words to the crowd, everyone was invited to enjoy refreshments and a photo op with Bush and Laura.

Obama being hungry, he headed for the buffet and small talk with other freshman members of Congress. He recalled his previous encounters with Bush, including a White House breakfast where, although he had found Bush likable ("you could easily imagine him owning the local car dealership..., coaching Little League and grilling in his backyard"), a moment came when:

after the backslapping and the small talk..., with [Cheney] eating his eggs Benedict impassively and [Rove] at the far end of the table discreetly checking his Blackberry, ... the President had begun to discuss his second term agenda,...when suddenly it felt as if somebody in a back room had flipped a switch. The President's eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty.


Obama came out of his reverie when he heard the President call his name.

"Obama!" the President said, shaking my hand. "Come here and meet Laura."

"We both got much better than we deserved, Mr. President", I said, shaking the First Lady's hand and hoping that I'd wiped any crumbs off my face. The President turned to an aide nearby, who squirted a big dollop of hand sanitizer in the President's hand.

JUST CAUSE For Shelby County!!!!!!

First off I want to thank Dave for the chance to spread the word on this, and I also want to thank DFM members Reginald Fentress, Frank Burhart, and Rick Maynard for all their help on this issue.

The following is an issue proposed by the Steering Committee of Democracy For Tennessee, and I want to thank Lizajean Holt..."No relation to Dave", for all her help and hard work, this is a project I was glad to work on this year as I and other DFT members have tried to lobby state leaders on this issue. We met earlier this year with Gov. Phil Bredesen and spoke to him about several proposed issues sponsored by DFT he was curious and interested. I have been kinda quiet for the past few months...out of character for me .....it was because I was working to lay the groundwork for FOUR Major Projects that I think will be of long term value to progressives and Democrats of all stripes. It is my intention to submit this research as well as drafted legislation to the Shelby County Executive Committee and to the Shelby County Commission. It is my sincere hope that we can take a bold step forward for this movement on the local level, by passing a modified local ordinance applying Just Cause to all County Employees as well as Contract Workers and companies that receive PILOTS. Just Cause legislation would prevent discriminatory firing practices as many unethical businesses hide behind the “at will employment” con game. In fact “at will employment”. really means "Right to Fire"..it also can mean "I can fire you for being Black/Female/Gay/Pro-Union/Jewish/Arab/Liberal...etc." “At will employment”. allows employers to do this because it does not mandate that a documented reason be given for termination, thus you cannot sue for discrimination if they did not give you a reason why they fired you. I know that this is long and a bit dry, and not as fun as bashing Bush or Shakey Jake but it is very important, and I am going to need all the help I can get on this. A victory here will embolden others working on this effort around the state

JUST CAUSE FOR SHELBY COUNTY
In the absence of any statute, the State of Tennessee has by acquiescence, allowed employers to avail themselves to a standard often referred to as “at will employment”. Following are widely accepted definitions of the term “at will employment”:
1. In the absence of a written employment contract and when the term of employment is of indefinite duration, the employer can terminate the employee for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all (Charles J. Muhl, attorney and former economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
2. Both the Company and an employee may terminate the employment relationship at anytime, with or without cause or notice (LRI Management Services, Inc)
3. An at-will employee in the USA can be terminated at any time, and for any reason-or no reason at all- and the courts will generally not intervene to protect the ex-employee from allegedly unfair treatment by the employer (Ronald B. Standler, “Professional ethics & Wrongful discharge”, 2000).

We have become a nation of employees. We are dependent upon others for our means of livelihood, and most of our people have become completely dependent upon wages. If they lose their jobs they lose every resource except for the relief supplied by the various forms of public assistance. Such dependence of the masses of people upon others for all of their income results in job insecurity, fear in the workplace, at times a reluctance to participate in the political process, low-self esteem, discourages initiative, and is contrary to the American concept of freedom and independence. Even Courts and legislatures are beginning to recognize that employers frequently have structural and economic advantages when negotiating with potential or current employees. The burden of the “at-will” employment doctrine often falls most heavily and harshly upon individuals with the most to lose, long-term employees who have the greatest responsibility and substantial investment in and the highest expectations from their careers. They are often at an age when replacement of their life and medical insurance programs and their retirement plans are difficult or impossible. In the modern work force, the “at-will” employment doctrine totally subordinates the interest of the employee to the employer’s whim. Further, the “at-will” doctrine renders all other employee protection legislation virtually impotent. True, there are laws prohibiting discrimination based on ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, sex, etc. However, the phrase “without cause” allows employers to easily circumvent those laws by simply not giving the employee a reason for the termination. The burden of proof is then shifted to the former employee, now without income, health insurance, or the resources to pursue redress. The former employee is now charged with the practically impossible task of proving malicious intent- a standard of proof that is almost always unobtainable. The employer can only be held accountable if he/she makes the mistake of stating in front of a witness or in writing that the termination is because of sex, age, ethnicity, disability, etc. At present, a discharged employee’s chance of finding a court receptive to his or her claim depends more on the jurisdiction and the bench before which the case arises than on the strength of his or her case. The USA is alone among the industrialized nations of the world in providing no protection against wrongful termination of employment. In 1988, prominent professor of law, specializing in employer-employee matters concluded: Except perhaps in the most egregious circumstances, therefore, common-law principles of public policy provide no guaranteed recourse for the wronged worker [Theodore J. St. Antoine, “A seed Germinates: Unjust Discharge Reform Heads Toward Full Flower”, 67 Nebraska Law Review 56, 60 (1988)].

HISTORY OF “AT WILL” IN TENNESSEE

Legal scholars attribute the “at-will” doctrine to a statement in a legal treatise by Horace C. Wood, author of Master and Servant [δ 134, pp 272-273 (1877)]. The “at-will” doctrine emerged in the nineteenth century in the United States in a climate of unbridled, laissez-faire expansionism, social Darwinism, and individualism. Despite the fact that the State of Tennessee never codified the “at-will” doctrine, an antiquated 1884 court ruling is often quoted: All may dismiss their employees at will, be they many or few, for good cause, for no cause [,]or even for cause morally wrong, without being thereby guilty of legal wrong (Payne v. Western & Atlantic Railroad Co., 81 Tenn. 507,519-520, 1884 WL 469 @ *6,Sep. term 1884).

IS THERE PRECEDENT FOR ADOPTION OF EMPLOYEE PROTECTION LEGISLATION?

The Tennessee Supreme Court opined that creating public policy in this area is “clearly a legislative function…all questions of policy are for the determination of the legislature, and not for the courts” [Watson v. Cleveland Chair Co., 789 S.W.2d 538,540 (Tenn.1989)]. The Court’s opinion makes it abundantly clear that citizens seeking redress must petition the legislature for clear and unequivocal protection against unfair terminations. The responsibility lies within the purview of the General Assembly, and not with the judicial branch. Other states that have already passed or have pending employee protection laws include the following:

1. ARKANSAS-HB1053- REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS“…(b) Within any and all situations of employment, which are not specifically exempted nor excepted by express legislative enactment of the Arkansas General Assembly, any discharge from employment of an employee by that employee’s employer, must meet, comport and comply with fundamental notions and standards of fairness, justice, reason, rationale, justification, even-handedness, non-discrimination, and non-disparate treatment.(c) The breach of this act shall ipso facto give rise to causes of action in law equity, declaratory proceedings, and court directives…”

2. INDIANA-HB1345- REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD“…Sec. 3 The common law doctrine of employment at will in the state is hereby abrogated.Sec. 4. An employee may only be discharged for just cause.Sec. 5. An employee discharged in violation of this chapter may institute a civil action against the employee’s former employer.”

3. MONTANA-39-2-904-“…Elements of Wrongful Discharge(b) the discharge was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period of employment…”

4. NEW YORK-SO1284-SENS. STACHOWSKI, BRESLIN,LACHMAN, ONORATO, SCHNEIDERMAN, A. SMITH, M. SMITH, STAVISKY“…5. Good cause means reasonable job-related grounds for dismissal based on a failure to satisfactorily perform job duties, disruption of the employer’s operation, or other legitimate business reason…s 763. Elements of Wrongful Discharge…The discharge was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period of employment; or the employer violated the express provisions of its own written personnel policy…”

5. TEXAS-HB215-REP. LONGORIA “…An employer may not discharge an employee who has been continuously employed by that employer for at least 10 years, in any capacity, except for cause…” In addition to the above, The Michigan Supreme Court opined in reference to implied-contracts that such policies (implied contracts) “…create a spirit of cooperation and friendliness in the workforce, making employees orderly, cooperative, and loyal by giving them peace of mind regarding job security and the belief that they will be treated fairly when termination decisions are made” (Toussaint v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Michigan, 1980). The Supreme Court of Nevada ruled in favor of the plaintiff stating that the discharge was in “bad faith” and that, even without a contract, such a termination gave rise to tort liability. The Court cited the employer-employee relationship as one of the “rare and exceptional cases that the duty [of law] is of such a nature as to give rise to tort liability (Kmart Corporation v. Ponsock,1987). Eleven states read “a covenant of good faith and fair dealing” into every employment relationship, meaning either that employer personnel decisions are subject to a “just cause” standard or that terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice are prohibited (Shane and Rosenthal, Employment Law Deskbook, sec. 16.03{8}).

The following resources were relied upon heavily in presenting and assimilating this information:
History of At-Will Employment Law in the USA, Ronald B. Standler
Wrongful Discharge: The Erosion of 100 years of Employer Privilege, William L. Mauk, 21 Idaho L. Rev. 201, 202 (1985).
Implied contract Rights to Job Security, 26 Stan.L.Rev. at 340. Protecting At-Will Employees Against Wrongful Discharge: The Duty to Terminate Only in Good Faith, 93 Harv.L.Rev. 1816, 1824-26 (1980). A Common Law Action for the Abusively Discharged Employee, 26 Hastings Law Journal 1435, 1447, n.54 (1975); Individual Protection Against Unjust dismissal: Time for A Statute, Clyde W. Summers, 62 Virginia Law Review 481, 508-519 (1976). Unjust Dismissal Laws, Samuel Estreicher, 33 American Journal f Comparative Law 310 (1985). Discharge of Professional Employees: Dismissal for Acts Within a Professional Code of Ethics, 11 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 149, 162-163 (1979).

Why So Timid?

Before I head to my paying job, where they have had the foresight to install anti-blog software to keep political junkies like me and others at the firm from reading blogs instead of billing hours, one more post....

One of the comments I've made on several local progressive blogs is, why all the anonymity of the bloggers and, especially, the commenters?

I know I've hardly ever written letters to the editor because, somehow, as much as I love to get on record with my private circle, I'm skittish about seeing my name in print. Some Greta Garbo factor, I suppose. So maybe that's it - fear of speaking out on the town square and, with blogs, it's easy to hide in the bushes and watch others do it, or not take the mask off if you do speak out.

Unlike with the newspaper, when commenting on blogs, it has never occurred to me, except on a very few occasions, to post anonymously. So, if I'm going to blog, I'm going to account for my opinions as mine. Are most bloggers that afraid of their bosses finding out that they secretly are progressives? The content of most posts certainly doesn't smell of timidity. Is it the invisibility cloak effect?

This phenomenon certainly seems to attach to anonymous comments on blogs. One only has to read Thaddeus Matthews' blog a few times to see that the vitriole spewed there, and now I'm speaking only of the readers, is fueled by the ability not to have to stand behind those vicious, frequently racist (and often inarticulate) comments.

A corollary to this curious situation: I'm told by local bloggers that there are many, many hits on their blogs. But, as a mere reader, it sure doesn't look that way. Except for TM's blog, where 99% of the many commenters are anonymous, leading to layer upon layer of amusing "Anon 4:15, you ignorant slut" responses, most other blogs' posts get 15 comments tops, with the average seeming to be about 3-4.

Come on, people, are you all voyeurs? Is it a Southern thing about politeness? I think Obama is right (see my last post) in the sense that we face difficult issues. Where is the public discourse? Are the bloggers fooling themselves and these blogs are only their online chatrooms - no one else is really paying attention? Or is it like when a tree falls in the forest? How do we know anyone is interested if they won't step into the circle and participate?

It just can't be that the vitriole spewers are the only ones who have something to say.

I can't hear you! What?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I'm reading Barack Obama's new book, The Audacity of Hope. I figure with his star power, if he's considering whether he might want to be our next president, I ought to know a little bit about his philosophy of politics.

So far, his main point seems to be twofold: one, politicians are out of touch with most regular folks, who are more alike than different, no matter what their political affiliations (most of us want good jobs, opportunities for ourselves and our families, and decent retirement years) and, two, politicians shouldn't dumb it down for the electorate with soundbites - sometimes issues are complicated and require new approaches and sacrifice, none of which are simplistic.

One passage on this theme is vivid:

They are out there... those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way - in their own lives, at least - to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves....the white Southerner who growing up heard his dad talk about nigger this and nigger that but who has stuck up a friendship with the black guys at the office and is trying to teach his own son different, who thinks discrimination is wrong but doesn't see why the son of a black doctor should get admitted into law school ahead of his own son. Or the former Black Panther who decided to go into real estate, bought a few buildings in the neighborhood, and is just as tired of the drug dealers in front of those buildings as he is of the bankers who won't give him a loan to expand his business. There's the middle aged feminist who still mourns her abortion, and the millions of waitresses and temp secretaries and nurse's assistants and Wal-Mart associates who hold their breath every single month in the hope that they'll have enough money to support the children they did bring into the world.

I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realsm, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possiblity that the other side might sometimes have a point....

They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.

The Clinton/Jr. Affair Today

We all know David Holt has lost his mind.

First, he's gone to law school. Nuff said. Second, as a result of that crazy decision, he's invited me and a few other opinionated political junkies into his wonderful blog until after first semester exams are over (most people don't know that your grades in each law school class are determined by one final exam in each class - sometimes just 20 questions, no pressure, though).

I'm really flattered to be allowed to join nut-meg and Brad here and help Dave out while he studies to become the editor in chief of the Law Review.

Many local bloggers know I have a few (perhaps naive) ideas about blogging. For instance, I've gotten in trouble with some local bloggers for opining on bloggers who only opine, and don't offer or work for solutions to the issues they raise. I've lobbied for a local progressive megablog where a team of bloggers would post regularly, and where guest posters could weigh in, where critical mass and focus could achieve some real impact locally without appealing to the lowest common denominator racially and serving as someone's personal outlet for grandiosity (like one particular local blog I won't mention).

I've been lucky to serve the last year or so on the local Democratic executive committee with Brad and David and others, and that provides ongoing fodder for discussion and opportunities for insight into local Democratic politics, which are nothing if not complicated, dysfunctional in some respects and fascinating in others.

Which leads me to the big Jr. rally I and about 5,500 others attended at the Temple of Deliverance COGIC church this morning. Of course, the big draw was the Big Dog, Bill Clinton. I took my friends' twin daughters, who turned fifteen today. They got to meet Clinton, who shook their hands and wished them happy birthday. They went away all dewy eyed and said it was the best birthday ever. They're never going to wash their hands again.

Jr. was his usual upbeat self, and I was glad that he seems to realize that Memphis deserves a bit of his attention in this close race.

But for me the best part was hearing Clinton talk about how we Democrats are not for cut and run, as the stay the course crowd accuses. Instead, he pointed out, being reality based and all, we are the stop and think bunch.

He pointed out that there's nothing wrong with being either liberal or conservative; the problem is that the crowd running the show in Washington for the last six years are extreme idealogues. And when you view things that way, who needs facts? You've already got all the answers. When Clinton was a kid digging himself into a hole, he was told it's best to quit digging. But with this bunch, they keep on saying hand me a bigger shovel.

A close second best part of the rally was the huge roar from the crowd when Clinton recognized Steve Cohen, who was sitting front row center with Cybill Shepherd and Mayors Wharton and Herenton. Jake was sitting front row off to the side with Isaac and his mother, on the edge of his seat the whole time looking like he was about to pounce on something. Clinton recognized Ford, Sr., and Harold Jr.'s mother and brothers, but not by name.

That was sweet.

Meanwhile, Jake continues to outdo himself in the statemanship category. One local Democrat leader told me that when he tried to shake hands with Jake at the rally, Jake called him a slimy piece of sh*t. I've heard that some are putting pressure on Sr. to pull Jake out of the race, even at this late date. I'm not holding my breath on that. I'm just looking forward to the day (next Wednesday?) when Sr. heads back to Miami and takes Jake with him.