Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Congrats to Bill...




The picture above is Bill's brother, mother, and Bill. (Hattip to Ron Williams, and the Flyer's JB for the pic.)


Another election day has come and gone. Odds are I excitedly told you already, but Bill Morrison won by a 2-1 margin last night. He went into the race down a few points points in the first round of voting last month. Not a bad turnaround in 4 weeks. Bill will make an incredible city councilman. He's honest, hardworking, and bright. It's nice to see a teacher in that seat instead of the typical crop of lawyers, businessmen, consultants, and Fords. A gigantic thank you to everyone who helped in that campaign. It was a great team of people to work with.

It's too bad about Brian Stephens, though. I don't work for Republicans, but he was a good guy, party-membership notwithstanding. He won the early vote, but the support of former mayor's Hackett and Morris was too much on election day. In a runoff where most of the voters remember the first time they saw Elvis live, the long-ago, old-white-guy-mayors still have some pull. Stephens has a future in local politics, and I'm sure he'll be back soon.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Statewide Progressive Blogger's Meetup

November 10, 2007 starting at 11 am

TN Democratic Party Headquarters
223 Eight Avenue N., 2nd Floor

Nashville, TN 37203 US



Guest speakers: State Rep. Gary Odom and Political Consultant Liz Rincon

Sunday, October 21, 2007

WWJVF? *

* = Who Would Jesus Vote For?

According to this article from the New York Times and MSNBC, Thompson, McCain, and Romney have been spending some energy trying to convince Republican voters that each one is the most pro-life, Jesus loving, gay marriage hating candidate out there.

Thompson has vowed to spend the first hour after being sworn in praying behind closed doors in the Oval Office, John McCain is saying that he is "the only candidate who can claim to have been pro-life for his entire political career," and Mitt Romney wants to "convene a White House meeting to look for ways to strengthen the family and appoint justices 'who won’t legislate from the bench.'"

I know Republicans aren't the only politicians who combine their politics and their faith. We all remember pictures of the Clintons and Gores going to church. Even the local candidates spend their Sundays going from one church to the next, using the opportunity to reach the masses.

Maybe it is because I don't regularly go to church, but a candidate's religious convictions have never really been a measure that I use to decide who I am going to vote for.

I often wonder if the practice of candidates going to church changes any one's mind. I mean if you are a regular church goer and you are there to hear what you pastor, minister, reverend, or rabbi has to say, are you really impressed that someone is crashing the party? Does it matter if they agree with you?

I went out with some friends on Friday night and upon hearing that I worked for Congressman Cohen, they told me an interesting story about meeting both the Congressman and his opponent within 24 hours of each other. They had gone to a dinner for the HRC and met Congressman Cohen there. The next morning, they went to church, and Nikki Tinker and her mother showed up to meet people. Now, I happen to have been a member of the church that my friends went to, and I have been since the 3rd grade, and I can assure you that Nikki Tinker isn't a regular at this church. There isn't anything wrong with that, as I said, everyone does it. I guess I am just the kind of person who would much rather meet the person who represents me in Washington, or even in Nashville, at an HRC dinner than at my church. Of course, the ironic thing is that since it is an Episcopal church, some of the people coming up to Nikki were homosexuals, and I am sure those African American preachers that are supporting Nikki would be surprised to know that homosexuals attend church, too.

So, what do you think - if someone is going to be elected to represent you, is it important that they have come to your church and talked to you from the pulpit or should candidates skip the church visits and concentrate on issues?

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Genius and a Thief

No......I'm not talking about a Memphis politician.....check these links:

http://vvi.onstreammedia.com/cgi-bin/visearch?user=pbs-saf&template=play220asf.html&query=pepperberg&squery=%2BClipID%3A4+%2BVideoAsset%3Apbssaf1201&inputField=undefined&ccstart=1895395&ccend=2687958&videoID=pbssaf1201

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3075041033513649325&q=dorito+bird&total=27&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

Sleeping In Today... Back to Work Tomorrow...

This election is the epitome of mixed emotions. Elation, cynicism, heartbreak, and anger were experienced by pretty much everyone involved in local politics last night. Jackson was right when he wrote about the American-Idol-style camaradrie between campaigns during this long process. The sarcasm and chit-chat have been dorkily fun. A couple thoughts on the races near and dear to me:

Jim Strickland didn’t just win; he dominated to an extent you rarely see a non-incumbent dominate a race. He is far and away the hardest-working politician I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. No matter how much the race seemed to be in the bag, he kept knocking on doors, talking with voters, and, more importantly, listening to the voters. His wonkishness and passion for crime-prevention policies promise to be highly influential on the new city council and he has ideas we really need to see implemented in this city.

Shea Flinn worked his butt off in Nashville and worked against flat-out stupid laws even though it would hurt him politically to do so. His anti-stupid approach should be fun to watch in a political climate full of “pro-stupid” politicians. His win was the best news of the night. Best of luck to Frank Langston in the future. Kemp Conrad’s a nice guy, even if he is a stinking Republican. Contrary to what you told me, Shea, the tenth prophet didn’t jump onto your bandwagon. But that’s okay. He went to Saino. The tenth prophet was always a gadfly, and the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Bill Morrison made the runoff and has another month to work. As a teacher, father, and veteran, Bill has the heart for public service that we need on the city council. I’m going to spend the next month doing anything I’m asked to do for him. You should too. We also had the pleasure in that race of beating Rudolph Daniels who was one of the more annoying candidates in any of the campaigns I worked this cycle. (“You’re a liberal! You gave us welfare!” “You tell Bill he needs to let people know he supports gays!”) I did love his negative mailers against us though. “Bill’s a far-left-commie endorsed by gays and left-wing-bloggers… Ahhh!!!!” Both goofy and useless, but it was great to see a Republican ad the used the phrase “left wing cracker.” Oh… It misspelled Bill’s name too. So much for being the education councilman.

Desi Franklin would have been a great member of the city council. She’s smart, independent, calm, and principled. Reid Hedgepeth is a Republican developer who raked in the money, skipped every single debate and forum, never talked about issues, and had never even bothered voting in a city election before running for city office. All in all, he’s exactly what progressives wouldn’t want in a councilman. It’s a free country, and anyone has a right to run. Carol and Herman both ran hard to win. Although, they likely cost each other the election, at least they saw a path to victory and weren’t running purely out of ego or spite. I’m not sure the same thing happened with Mary Wilder. I never saw Mary at a single poll. I never saw a volunteer for her the entire race. I never even saw signs for her at a lot of polls. She raised no money to speak of. She wasn’t running to win. As far as I can tell, all she did was get a few endorsements then send out a couple last minute mailers. Had she not been in the race, none of her vote wold have gone to Reid. Even about a third of her vote going to Desi would have been enough to give Desi the win.

The mayor’s race doesn’t have me as down as it does a lot of ya’ll because I never expected much different. I’ve said for months that Herenton’s GOTV would make him go 5-7 points above what he polled. That’s pretty much what happen. The man got his vote out like a pro. I respect both Herman and Carol and I would have loved to see either of them as mayor, but I was never a kool-aid drinker of either. I’ll be glad when the current feces-throwing between pissed-off Carol supporters and pissed-off Herman supporters ends. If you need me, I’ll be getting to work on the next set of races.

P.S. Please don’t ever again put me working a poll with McManus there shouting about the evils of strip clubs at all the voters (Stephens is against that strip club! We don’t need that crime and those drugs! Fight the strip club, vote for Stephens!) Oh brother… And please don’t lock me in a room full of conservatives while they count the votes and I listen to Pierotti (Steve Mulroy’s opponent back a few cycles ago) talk about what a rude ass he was and how my far-left beliefs were anti-Christian. Why’s it always my job to make nice with the Republicans?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Water Break and Flip-floppery...

I've been out since 5 this morning and I'll be out till all the votes are counted and the beer is all drank. Now, however, is lunchtime.

I've been out in Frayser and Raleigh all morning, and I'll be in East Memphis all night. Carol is rocking it where I'm at. She has feisty volunteers everywhere. Nothing from Morris. Little from Herenton. I still say Herman had the best chance of beating Herenton to start and given another month probably would have a better chance. I can't deny though, that if you are looking to beat Herenton TODAY Carol is who you have to go with now. Let's hear it for her! Go Carol! She's a fighter and this is going to be a close one.

The District 1 candidates are out in force in the North. I'm getting great results when talking to voters for Bill. I'm feeling good about that. The District 9 campaigns don't seem to realize Raleigh and Frayser exist.

Back to work. This wearing three campaign hats at once is rough. Vote for Besi Morlin! I mean Dill Frankisson... I mean... Screw it... Just vote for Bubba (I would have said Bob but Jim would kick my butt.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More on Ford, Sr.

Former Congressman Harold Ford, Sr. did not show up at Herenton's rally last night. It is unclear whether he was ever really going to show up in the first place.

However, he may have bigger trouble than disappointing the current mayor. According to the Commercial Appeal this morning, Ford, Sr. may have cast an illegal vote this year. According to the story, Harold Ford, Sr. applied for a homestead tax break in Florida, during which he declared his primary residence is in Florida. However, by casting a vote in the Tennessee election, he is declaring his primary residence to be in Tennessee. You can't have two primary residences. You can live out of state and vote here, as long as you don't officially declare to be a resident of another state. Oops.

The article doesn't make it clear if Brook Thompson, state election coordinator, is going to investigate the matter further.

So, what do you think? Does declaring yourself a resident of one state for purposes of lowering your property taxes exclude you from voting in another state? What should happen to the Former Congressman if, in fact, he did vote illegally?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Heeeeeeeeee's Baaaaaack

I know they say that politics makes strange bedfellows, but Ford Sr. and Herenton together again is beyond strange.

During the 2006 campaign, Ford. Sr. returned to Memphis in an effort to get Harold Ford, Jr. elected to the Senate and Jake elected to the House. Obviously, his plans did not work.

When Herenton endorsed Cohen, the already existing tension between the Herenton camp and the Ford camp escalated, and when both Fords lost, several people felt that Ford, Sr.'s influence was less effective than it had been in previous election years. Part of the reason is that Ford Sr. has moved to Florida, and his base has moved - both physically and symbolically.

So, how desperate is Mayor Herenton that he would try to bring back the magic from his first election? Today's Commerical Appeal reports that the race is too close to call.

I was telling someone at lunch today that it was kind of exciting to be this close to election day and not know who was going to win. All of the candidates have plenty of time to either secure the win or blow their chances, and it will be interesting to watch how they all react to the pressure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Winnie the Pooh Says Vote for Pearce...

The most interesting part of working a poll during elections is getting to meet the friends and family of candidates who are out campaigning for their loved ones. They’re normally new to politics, and they can say the darnedest things.

Yesterday, I was working White Station Church of Christ at the same time as the father of Pearce in District 2. The guy was going up to voters and saying that they had the Christian Coalition endorsement and that Stephens had the Planned Parenthood endorsement. Both of those are unlikely, considering those groups don’t endorse in local elections. After the Stephen’s campaign and he “exchanged words” Pearce was quite miffed and kept complaining to me and a couple of others about how badly he was treated. When asked why he thought they had those endorsements he said “I just made it up. I was just talking.” He also seemed to be under the amusing impression that abortion is the biggest issue in this campaign, making me wonder what exactly is going on in those side rooms I haven’t been in at city hall.

With that in mind:

Desi Franklin has the endorsement of Concerned Puppies of America.

Bill Morrison has the support of wildflowers, sunsets, and long walks on the beach.

9 out 10 prophets agree that Shea Flinn would make an excellent addition to the city council.

All three campaigns can expect to be getting my inflated consulting bill now.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Midtown Forum

On Sunday, Sepetmebr 16th, the Central Gardens Neighborhood Association is sponsoring a Candidates Forum for the Mayoral Candidates and the City Council who represent districts in Midtown.

The forum will be held from 4 pm - 6 pm and will be held in the gymnasium at Idewild School.

Here is the announcement on the website for Central Gardens.

Here is a google map for Idewild School.

I hope to see you there.

MSDIA Endorsements

I took part in the Mid-South Democrats in Action endorsement meeting last night and the following candidates were enthusiastically endorsed by the group:

Mayor: Herman Morris

District 1: Bill Morrison

District 5: Jim Strickland

District 6: Reginald Milton

District 8 Position 1: Ian Randolph

District 8 Position 3: Myron Lowery

District 9 Position 2: Shea Flinn

District 9 Position 3: Desi Franklin

I’m in total agreement with the group on every one of those endorsements. Remember that the non-super districts may have run-offs. Keep those checkbooks out, and those canvassing shoes laced.

Time to Be a Man and Pick a Side...

Did you feel it this morning? That smell of cardboard being taken out of trucks, and the sound of posts being stuck into the mushy ground? That would be the smell and sound of early voting starting. I love it. The game is almost over, so I might as well pick a team.

Willie Herenton had his time. His victory 16 years ago was a great thing for the city. His continued presence in that post is not. He has, unfortunately, become a roadblock to new ideas for the problems that face this city. No one needs me to list the ways this is so. The question is who to support. With Carol and Herman splitting the anti-Herenton vote, he is pretty much assured reelection. There are a lot of undecideds hanging back to see which of them has the momentum to challenge the Doctor.

I have a lot of respect for Carol Chumney. She has represented me well in the state house and on the city council. Her work for children as a legislator is particularly laudable. She’s a fighter who doesn’t shy away from confrontation but always stands up against what she thinks is wrong. I will not say a bad thing about her here. She has my utmost respect.

Herman Morris is an experienced executive. We need someone to go into that office who knows how to handle massive and complex budgets and personnel issues. Herman has done that. We need someone who has a thoughtful and calm demeanor, rather than the bluster and over-the-top characters so common in local Memphis politics. A look at his campaign shows the ability to bring together people across racial and partisan lines. This is a rare ability in this city. Herman has the organization to compete. He has the money to compete. He has the experience and ability to do the job and do it well. This is why I am endorsing Herman Morris for mayor today.

Point me to a poll to work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Turn

I am not going to post a full list of endorsements, because I believe in quality over quantity. We have an embarrassment of riches for this election - it is rare to have so many qualified people running. With so many seats up for grabs, the City of Memphis is going to have plenty of new faces in positions of power, and, in some cases, I really haven't made up my mind which button I am going to push when I go vote. So, instead of a laundry list, I am going to talk to you about my friends.

The Mayor's race

I mentioned that Herman Morris was my choice very early on in the race. That has not changed. I would love to wax poetically about all of the reasons of why you should vote for Herman Morris, but, for me, it has to do with the people standing behind him. He has put together a cross section of Memphians that I respect - Minerva Johnican, Thomas Boggs, John Ryder, Mayor Bill Morris, and Judge Russell Sugarmon have all been around local politics long enough that I pay attention when they decide to endorse someone. Herman has been working very hard, and I like everything I have heard him say. His campaign has not been perfect, but it is easy for me to see the faults from the sidelines without the pressuring glare of being in the middle of a very tough race.

District 9, Position 2

Shea Flinn and I actually have known each other for a long time. His dad and my dad went to East High School together. He went to the boy's version of my high school (he graduated a year later than I did), and when his father ran for Mayor, a mutual friend of ours tried to get me to work on the Flinn campaign. I have seen him at the St. Peter's Picnic in the heat of summer working for various candidates, and what I can tell you about Shea is that he works hard for things that he believes in. I think the tag line on his website says it all - "Shea for Service." When Shea was elected as the interim Senator for District 30, it would have been very easy for him to go up to Nashville and do nothing. He could have easily said that he was only filling a seat and not gotten involved, but he didn't. He showed up and he filed legislation. When he got home, he could have just gone back to his regular job and stayed out of the way. Instead, he worked with the Citizens against Crime group to help organize a community in their efforts to make Memphis safer. Shea will bring that same commitment to the City Council and we will all be the better for it.

District 5

What can I say about Jim Strickland? Jim is one of the nicest, one of the most hardworking, one of the most dependable people that I know. He is a former Democratic party chair. He has worked hard for a lot of Democratic candidates. He takes an interest in his community, and he wants to make the city a better place for his kids.

Jim is the type of guy that we all should want running for office because he is running for office for all the right reasons. He is not running to be the next mayor of Memphis (I think Melyne would kill him). He isn't running to get good seats at the Tiger basketball games (he already has season tickets). He isn't even running because the City Council will look good on his resume (Lawyer, has his own firm). He is running for office because he knows that he can make a difference. Jim is a successful lawyer with a wonderful family and plenty of good friends. I have absolutely no doubt that Jim's life would be just fine if he had decided not to run for the City Council this year. However, that is not who Jim is. He sees a chance to help and he jumps in with both feet, and we will all benefit from that when he is elected to the City Council.

When I wrote about what I look for in a candidate, my friend autoegocrat wrote this in the comments:

All other things being equal, a person's ability to manage and run their own successful political campaign isn't such a bad measure of their overall competence. It usually tells you a lot about their ability to form coalitions and make allies.


These three candidates, in my opinion, have done their part by building coalitions and reaching out to the voters, and now we need to do our part and vote for them.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hubris... My Endosements...

It’s that time of the year. Election season. It’s like Christmas for political dorks like me. A lot of people have been asking me how I’m voting, so I’ll pretend the rest of ya’ll care too. Here are my endorsements, for what they’re worth. As usual, I have no financial stakes in the outcome of these… Oh, hell, who am I kidding? Vote for who I tell you to or I’ll break your kneecaps. : - )

City Council:

District 1: BILL MORRISON

I’ve had the good fortune to get to know Bill pretty well over the last two years, and I’d be hard-pressed to name someone I’d rather have representing me on the city council. He’s a teacher, a veteran, and a father. He’s also a honest, hard-working activist who would provide a great progressive voice in city government.

District 2: Ivon Faulkner

If you’re looking to pick the best candidate who might win, go with Brian Stephens. If you want to support a good Democrat, who has been fighting the good fight and building the party up in Republican areas then reward Ivon with your vote.

District 3: No endorsement.

I’m torn three ways here. It’s not my district, and I’m not working in this race, so I’ll stay out of it. Davida, Harold, and Coleman would all make good council members. Davida has the support of New Path, Harold has the CA endorsement (as well as that of the always well-informed Paula Casey and Happy Jones), and Coleman Thompson has support from a lot of activists whose opinions I respect. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to duck this question.

District 4: Wanda Halbert

Wanda doesn’t need any held from me to walk away with this race. You may remember Johnny Hatcher as the guy who ran as a Republican against Steve Cohen because Cohen has a decent record on gay rights. He then ran for the county commission as a Democrat. Now he’s hoping to achieve the trifecta of having been defeated as a Democrat, Republican, and Independent. Way to go Johnny.

Disctrict 5: Jim Strickland

This is my district. Good-old-fashioned district 5, historical home to the anti-establishment, “quirky white progressive” member of the council who tends to lose a lot of 12-1 votes. Jim isn’t Chumney, and he’s not Vergos. He’s not going to be the bomb-thrower that this district is used to. He’s not going to be in front of every camera within a five block radius. However, that is less needed this time. The council is going to be full of fresh faces who are willing to take a look at new approaches. Jim is a bridge-builder. He’s the hardest working candidate in this election cycle, and he’s a voice of experience that will be useful on a largely neophyte city council.

District 6: REGINALD MILTON

Smart, idealistic, and active in the community. Reginald is the executive director of the South Memphis Alliance. He’s exactly the sort of leader the district needs, and you get the added pleasure of defeating another Ford which is second only to beating Republicans in my book.

District 7: If Barbara had kept the name Holt than maybe I could endorse her.

It’s unlikely she’ll be beat, and Barbara Swearengen Holt-Ware has been effective for her district. She has also been a disheartening defender of corrupt politicians, and I can’t stomach a vote for her. In theory, Veronica Castillo has the best shot of the challengers. I can’t pretend to have been involved enough in this race to make a call.

District 8 Position 1: Ian Randolph

Ian is a fine progressive, community leader who would be a great asset to the council.

District 8 Position 2: No endorsement.

This race has several good candidates who would be fine members of the council.

District 8 Position 3: Myron Lowery

I’m all for throwing the bums out, but Myron is a strong voice for his district, is the best candidate in this race, and is the closest thing to untouchable as anyone on the council.

Distict 9 Position 1: Scott McCormick

Cecil Hale isn’t really campaigning so does it even really matter what I say about Scott? He’s a cross-dressing, puppy-kicking, communist. What’s that? He still won? Works for me. (Sarcasm people, chill…)

District 9 Position 2: Desi Franklin

First off, let me say that Boris Combest is a good guy who would make a good council member. I’ve had the privilege of working with him on the executive committee, and I think highly of him. The same goes for Mary Wilder’s record of service in community organizations and as my interim state representative. With all that said, there’s only one good Democrat in this race who can win. That’s Desi Franklin. Desi has the money, the organization, and the credentials to win this race.

I’ve gotten to work with Desi more than either of us would care to reflect on over the last few years. She’s a good Democrat, a public servant, a hard-worker, and a great leader. She’s a lifelong Memphian, has a record of community involvement a mile long, and she has been a whirlwind force in the local party over the last few years. She would do District 9 proud on the city council.

District 9 Position 3: Shea Flinn

As weird as it feels to be pulling the lever for a name that says “George Flinn,” I’ll do it with pride. Shea is a young progressive with a great future. He made a name for himself with incredible work as Steve Cohen’s interim replacement. Imagine what he can do with a full term.

City Court Clerk: Thomas Long

Long has earned another term with his work as city court clerk. I still think these sort of positions should be appointed though.

City Mayor: Drum Roll Please…

I’ve said I was staying out of this race. Despite a lot of begging and arm-twisting I still am. Maybe I’ll come out for someone before election day, I doubt it though. I have a lot of respect for Herman. I have a lot of respect for Carol. Neither has managed to generate any excitement in me or show that they have much in the way of plans besides “I’m not Herenton.” Show me something tonight. I want to be excited. I want to want to go to work for you. Herman needs to show me that he can win. Carol needs to show me that she can do more than lob bombs. Until then, I have plenty of other races to play with.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Voters Choice

In less than a month, we will be voting again. Early voting starts this coming Friday. So, when the Commercial Appeal put the ballot in the paper on Friday, I knew it was time to figure out who I was going to vote for.

This morning, I sat in my comfy chair and I looked at the ballot and realized I was going to have a harder time this year figuring it out. There are some really good people running this year, and some of them are running in the same districts.

It got me thinking - how do you decide who to vote for? Not specifically, but in general. Are you the kind of voter who researches every race and picks people based on that or do you just go with the names you know? Is there a minimum number of issues you have to agree with someone on or do you realize that it doesn't matter if the Court Clerk is pro-choice, because his or her job doesn't affect your right to choose? Have you ever had to vote for someone who you dislike personally because they are the best person for the job?

Let's look at an example of one of the races I am having trouble with. There are three candidates in a particular race (Note: characteristics will be changed for the purposes of protecting the identity of the actual people I am talking about).

Candidate A is someone I have met on a couple of occasions. I have talked to this candidate about his/her vision for the city. I agree with some of his/her views, and I think he/she is basically someone I would want to represent me.

Candidate B is someone I know slightly better than Candidate A. He/she has a lot more pure political experience and, although I agree with most of his/her views, I am not quite sure how those views transfer into actual goals for the seat.

Candidate C is not someone I know at all. I have read the mail piece that he/she has sent me, and it looks like they could do the job if elected.

So, I guess my first choice is easy. I am obviously not voting for Candidate C. I tend to vote for people I know over people I don't. I have been involved in the local political scene long enough that I know a lot of people, and even if I don't know the candidate personally, I know people who know the candidate. So, it is very rare that I don't know someone who is running for office. So, eliminating someone I don't know is a pretty easy choice for me.

So, now I am stuck. Do I go with the person whose personality I like better or the one who has spent more money? Do I go with the person who I agree with 85% of the time or the one who I agree with 55% overall, but 100% on my big issues?

This is only slightly related to the ballot, but did you know that in Chicago, the ballot order is determined by the order in which candidates turn in their petitions? Can you imagine the cluster fuck that would occur at the Shelby County Election Commission office if we had a similar system? I do think it would be hilarious to watch and see if any candidates would tackle one of their opponents to beat them to the window and get a better ballot placement. The person who told me about this did not understand the value of the alphabetical ballot placement. What do you think? Should candidates be rewarded for speed or is there value in allowing people to wait to turn in their petitions?

I am not going to put together a full list of endorsements because this is a group blog and I am sure that I don't speak for the full group. However, I am working on one endorsement that I will put up later in the week, and if you know me, you probably already know who I am voting for anyway.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

If you don't read it, is it still news?

According to the Memphis Flyer and Thaddeus, the Black Ministers are now calling for a boycott of the Commerical Appeal because the paper "opposes Christianity."

I am sure the boycott has nothing to do with the negative publicity that the group is getting after their embarrassing behavior towards a sitting Congressman. I mean just because the newspaper took the time to expose a group of ministers to be bigoted and close minded in their dealings with a guest - I am sure that they had been planning to do this all along. Because you know, once again, this group of men has its pulse on the true issues effecting their congregations. Why would they take time to promote education or help in the crime problem, when they can fight against hate crime legislation and Godless newspapers.

I do think it is interesting that they are specifically calling out columnist Wendi Thomas. First of all, she is an opinion writer, not a reporter. She is allowed to agree or disagree with any organization she chooses and it has nothing to do with the philosophy of the newspaper. Second, she is one of the few columnists who actually uses bible verses to prove her points. I think there is very little evidence to support calling her the anti-Christian representative of a corporate entity.

Look, I have plenty of issues with our daily newspaper. I don't enjoy reading the paper as much as I used to. It is filled with filler articles and press releases, the sections I enjoy are constantly being truncated, and they still allow Michael Ramirez to publish his stupid cartoons. John Branston (of The Memphis Flyer) actually wrote a pretty good case for canceling a subscription to the local paper. However, I will not be canceling my subscription for as long as this stupid boycott is going on, because I do not want this group of people to take any credit for any lost circulation. I do not want them to think that I agree on any level with any of their views on Congressman Cohen or heathen journalists.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All This on One Page of the CA?

Your daily dose of race-baiting: “He’s not black and he can’t represent me… He can’t know what it’s like to be black.” Rev. Robert Poindexter about Congressman Steve Cohen.

Your daily dose of Republican sex: “I am not gay.” Republican Senator Larry Craig after being arrested for soliciting a male prostitute in the bathroom of an airport, and then pleading guilty on accident.

Your daily dose of life-summarization: “I talk too much.” John Ford summing up his life quite succinctly.

What a quotable day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vote For Me Because... Uh... Well...

From the Commercial Appeal today:
“Tinker did not respond to repeated phone calls for this story, but her Washington-based spokesman, Cornell Belcher, explained Friday that she’s not interested in talking issues or Cohen’s record yet.

“Here’s where we are, to be straight with you: At this point, we want her talking to voters and raising money.”


Over two years of campaigning, two federal elections, and she’s STILL “Not ready to talk about issues.”

I groaned over my coffee this morning “What the heck is she talking to voters about then?” And Margo said “Hi. I’m Nikki Tinker. I’m black.”

You know, if you want to find young African American political leaders from the 9th District race last year you can do a heck of a lot better than Tinker. Joe Ford Jr., Ed Stanton, Lee Harris, and Tyson Pratcher all ran issue-based campaigns that didn’t rely on trying to be some sort of money-dominated cookie-cutter candidate.

On the plus side, it will be fun to see some local political hacks beat the Washington money people again in ’08.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Monday Night Mayhem




Has everybody heard that the University of Memphis College Democrats are having a fundraiser on Monday night?

John Marek (law school student and fellow blogger) is ending his term as president of the U of M College Democrats, and he wants to leave them in good shape to help with all of the projects that they have coming up over the next school year.

You can go here and read the invitation.

Back in the days of yore when I was at the University of Memphis, I spent the summer working on the first Clinton / Gore campaign. When school started back in the Fall, I wanted to stay as involved as I could politically and I was shocked that the U of M didn't have an active College Democrats organization. My friend, Amy, and I wrote up an new charter and tried to recruit other people to get involved, but there just wasn't enough interest at the time to maintain any kind of organized group. I know first hand how important money and support can be to this organization. I also know that it is a great place for aspiring political leaders who lean left to learn how to be field organizers, fundraisers, and candidates.

I can't tell you how important the College Democrats are to the Memphis political scene. The Cohen Campaign would have been a very uninteresting place to work if we hadn't had all of these smart, ambitious, focused college democrats running around going door to door and carrying our message throughout the 9th District. Of course, the fact that they were all insanely good looking helped, too.

Come to Fresh Slices on Monday at 7:00 pm. I promise you will have fun and it is for a really good cause. Plus, have I mentioned that they are all insanely good looking? What else are you going to do on a Monday?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This Day in History

The United States started the Social Security Program

Japan surrendered

Cindy Brady was born

and so was . . .

The Freedonian

I have been reading his blog for about a year. He is consistently smart, funny, and pretty on target with his posts. I learn something new from him all of the time. Every now and then, we disagree - Big Brother isn't rigged any more this year than it ever is, that is a part of the show - and, even then, I respect his opinion.

So, Happy Birthday, Freedonian. I owe you a birthday cocktail. I can't wait to read more.

Now, go wish him a happy birthday, too.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I Heart Huckabee



Don't go crazy... I ain't endorsing any Republicans. I just wish a certain former Congressman had talked like this Southern Baptist minister.

Hattip to TPM and VIBINC for this.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2007 University of Memphis College Democrats Fundraiser

"Building the Next Generation of Democrats"

2007 University of Memphis College Democrats Fundraiser

Monday August 27, 2007 – 7:00 p.m.

Fresh Slices
1585 Overton Park , Memphis, Tn 38112

Host Committee
Congressman Steve Cohen, Chair
Jim Strickland, Co-Chair
Chip Armstrong, Co-Chair

Dear Supporter,

With the 2008 presidential election approaching, it is vital that the youth becomes actively involved in the political process. As college students, we understand that our participation in the upcoming presidential election will be more important than ever, as we have the opportunity to elect officials that will represent and uphold the values of the Democratic Party at both the state and the national level. We need to make sure that we gain more seats in Congress, and put a Democrat in the White House to repair the damage caused by eight years of the Bush administration.

During the 2006 election, the College Democrats at the University of Memphis played a vital role in increasing voter turnout on campus and its surrounding areas. The College Democrats helped elect Steve Mulroy to the County Commission, causing the Democrats’ recent takeover of the County Commission. Members of the College Democrats served as staff on both Harold Ford, Jr.’s Senate campaign and Steve Cohen’s congressional campaign. Combined, these campaigns enjoyed over forty interns and numerous volunteers. Over 100 college students knocked on doors for Steve Cohen’s campaign and the rest of the Democratic ticket in the 2006 general election. We plan on working even harder in the upcoming 2008 election, and we hope to establish an internship program that will work directly for the party when they will need us the most.

A top priority of the University of Memphis College Democrats is to raise the funds and resources that will enable us to continue our efforts in helping to elect Democrats and cultivate new leadership. This year’s fundraiser will take place on August 27th at Fresh Slices in the Evergreen Historic District. The funds raised in this event will be used primarily to promote voter outreach efforts on and off campus, volunteer recruitment, canvassing, grassroots volunteer training seminars, GOTV events, internship programs, organizational meetings, and all the administrative costs that these tasks entail.
In advance, we thank you for the time and the effort that you have already invested in us, and we look forward to working with you in our support for the Democratic Party.

Sincerely,
The University of Memphis College Democrats

John R. Marek, President Fall ‘05-Summer ’07
Michael Lipe, President Fall ’07
Jon Paul Hataway, Vice President Fall ‘05-Summer ’07
Kate Mauldin, Vice President Fall ’07

Suggested Contribution: $50

RSVP or more information please contact John Marek (901) 351-7695 or jmarek1@gmail.com

If you cannot attend, but you would still like to contribute to the University of Memphis College
Democrats, please send your contributions to:

The University of Memphis College Democrats
2257 Nelson Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

Speaking of Ron Paul.......

Considering the fact that I received huge blisters on my hands from putting up over 67 yard signs in one day for Congressman Steve Cohen, I have to hand it to the kids (I heard through some friends that it was a couple of guys my age) who put the homemade Ron Paul 2008 signs all over Midtown and East Memphis. Even though the signs are illegal, are going to litter the streets of Memphis, and are going towards a candidate who has as much of a chance of winning a primary as Kucinich, those guys did have some dedication to their art. However, I can't help but to laugh while imagining the type of young person who would support Ron Paul. I picture a college student that has been programmed by his very well-off family to vote Republican even if he disagrees with everything they stand for outside of economic policy/gun control laws. This guy has probably been picked on by many of his friends for the past 7 years for voting for Bush both times even though he disagrees with the war and is for the most part a social liberal. This poor guy finally found someone who is at least close to being a hero for him, but he will be stuck with another war loving Republican when the general rolls around in '08. If only we could get them to use that energy for our side...................*pictures thousands of envelopes being stuffed in a single night*

Monday, August 06, 2007

Duck Soup



This is from the Iowa debate the Republicans had Sunday. Note how proud of himself Romney is as he wets himself trying to find a chance to say "9/11". I ain't a Ron Paul guy, but it is fun to see him slap these morons around from time to time.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

OK - by now you have read the story and you know that there is a group of ministers who are attacking the Congressman on his vote (one that took place 3 months ago) on hate crime legislation.

First of all, I urge everyone to actually read the bill. There is absolutely no reference to hate speech in the bill. In other words, a preacher can get up in church and condemn homosexuality every Sunday from now until the end of the world, and it isn't illegal. What is illegal under this bill is telling a homosexual he is going to Hell, while you are beating them to a pulp or shooting them or something like that.

One of the groups behind the attack against the Congressman is the American Family Association. This group is used to protesting things that they don't understand. They protest movies that they don't watch, they boycott tv shows that they have never seen, and they love some good "action alerts." So, I really shouldn't be surprised that they either (a) didn't read the bill or (b) read it, but just don't understand it.

I actually understand Rev. Gray and his minister friends getting involved in this "issue." Given the fact that some of the people have already contributed to one of the candidates who will be running against the Congressman next year. You can see who is on that list here.

We have some religious activists who either haven't read the legislation or don't fully understand the legislation teaming up with some minister looking to help someone in their quest for political office teaming up together to try and fight an issue that doesn't exist because the bill they are fighting doesn't limit speech, only actions. That sounds like a winning combination to me.

My favorite part of the Commercial Appeal article is this part "Berryhill said the ministers he is talking to simply don't accept Cohen's interpretation.

"Even though he says that, we just don't believe it," he said. "If you get up in a pulpit now, according to the way we understand it, and if you say homosexuality is a sin, you have 'attacked homosexuality.' That's the way the ministers are interpreting this..."

Basically, the Rev. Berryhill is saying that even though they can read the bill themselves and not find one word limiting speech, they are choosing not to believe that the bill doesn't limit speech. I think that is what scares me the most about some of the very religious people. Even when presented with factual evidence, they would rather believe what someone tells them. That is how they end up debating scientists over things like evolution, too.

In 1994, when I was an intern in the State Senator Cohen's legislative office in Nashville, one of my least favorite duties was to answer the phone on Monday mornings. Every Sunday, the big churches in Nashville would preach about the evils of bringing the lottery to TN, and they would hand out these postcards with the legislative office's phone number on it. So, every Monday morning, the phone calls would go something like this:

Me: Hello. Thank you for calling Sen. Cohen's office. How can I help you?
Them: Did you know that you are going to Hell because you are helping bring gambling to TN?
Me: Thank you for calling.

So, you can see where I started to worry about my own salvation a little bit.

That is the problem with these kind of emotional reaction to issues that have some sort of moral implication to them. The truly well-meaning person who takes their faith very seriously suddenly gets lumped in with all of these nutjob radically religious people who pass out postcards threatening people with eternal damnation. That is why you then have to read letters to the editors like the ones in today's paper where people are forced to say, I am a Christian but I don't think people should be allowed to physically attack other people for being black or gay or something else like that, so I am glad my Congressman voted for a bill three months ago that tries to prevent that.

I guess my question to those who are in agreement with the people who are bombarding the Congressman with postcards and phone calls is what exactly do you want the Congressman to do? I mean, the vote was in May, so it isn't like he can stand up on the floor and say, "Madam Speaker, remember that vote I made on May 3rd? Well, I need to change it now." Votes aren't penciled in so that a Congressman can take some time and think about it and then change them when it is convenient. They are cast and recorded and they are permanent. And even if he could change his vote, which again - he can't, if you know the Congressman at all, you would know that sending a postcard to his office that threatens his eternal soul on an issue that you don't agree with is not the best way to change his mind about something. After all, he fought year after year to pass the lottery.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Deja Vu...

The Republican Party endorsed John Willingham for mayor. Read the article. It's like the Democratic judicial endorsements all over again. If they spend money on a Republican ballot then I'm going to rename this the Willie Herenton endorsement for mayor.

So... Anyone want to go make Democratic endorsements for City Council and Mayor? Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hide as people throw things at me for even joking about that.

Pharisees

Around the time Margo and I started dating, her mother found out she had cancer. She had surgery and radiation treatment over the next several years. She still has to go to the doctor to deal with some of the lingering side effects of the radiation and whatnot, but she’s been cancer free for seven or eight years now. She was lucky. They had health insurance. She was a stay at home mom, and her husband worked in a G.E. factory for 35 years. It’s a running semi-joke in the house that she’s not allowed to get sick again because there’s a lifetime maximum on how much the insurance will pay out. It’s not entirely a joke, however, the factory started shipping out more and more jobs to China. He figured his job would be gone any day, so he took the early retirement offer and the cut in pension that led to so he could be sure and keep his health insurance. They were lucky.

He started work at the factory soon after high school and kept that job his whole life. Those sorts of jobs aren’t really around much anymore. That’s why his sister works at Walmart. That’s why her children work at Wal-mart and Rent-to-Own. These sorts of jobs pay half as much, they don’t include benefits, and they won’t let you work full time. They’re also just about the only jobs left in Selmer. What if he had been born a bit later, and ended up working at Wal-mart out of high school instead of G.E.? Without insurance would she have gone in to the doctor early enough to catch the cancer before it was too late? What would have happened to them when the costs for the surgeries and radiation and checkups mounted? What would have happened to them when she fell down and broke her leg in three places last night because the radiation weakened her bones?

They were lucky. They have health insurance. I know others who aren’t. I know people who let their Diabetes go mostly untreated because they can’t afford care. I know people who’ve gone bankrupt because they got cancer. There is something wrong with someone working a 40 hour week for years and years and losing it all because of a disease they can’t control. There’s something wrong with a country whose biggest “moral issue” is who people have sex with in their own homes when people are sick and uncared for, when people are homeless and unsheltered, when people are hungry and not fed. I wonder which issues Jesus spent his time talking about? Certain pastors who are up in arms about a bill to increase funding for “hate crimes” should stop and think about their congregations. They should stop to think about their city. Are more people suffering in this city because of lack of healthcare or because someone wants to prevent hate crimes? Are more people suffering because of poverty or because we happen to have a white guy in Congress? Far be it for me to tell pastors a damn thing about religion, but it seems to me someone might have their priorities a little mixed up. The God I pray to is a God of love and caring for those less fortunate, not a God of politics and condemnation and self-righteousness. But what does this sinner know?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Electoral College Reform

North Carolina is likely about to switch to allocating electoral votes according to who wins each Congressional district. Maine and Nebraska already do that. Too bad we didn't get around to this when we controlled the State Senate. Aside from fairness, it would have picked up at least three votes for the Dems. This whole not having my vote counted for Presidential races thing gets old.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Girly Men

I almost feel sorry for the Republicans. For years, we Democrats have managed to predict our own defeat at every turn. Not so, at the moment. Almost every Democrat I know is assuming we’re going to win the presidency in ’08 and keep both houses. Some of them are even having wet dreams about filibuster-proof majorities. Our activists are motivated. Our donors are giving like never before. The Senate map favors us in a way that looks fated by God for Senate pickups.

I’ve talked to three Republican activists today, and all three were in total agreement that that the entire Republican field sucks and that they were headed for a good-ole-fashioned-country butt-whooping. Somehow, when we weren’t looking the Republican Party has become the party of self-defeating girly-men. They’re depressed and conflicted and scared. I’m loving every second of it.

Never fear though. A savior has arisen in the form of a two-bit-actor who did almost nothing in the Senate and is a lazy campaigner. I was trying to get these highly-informed Republican voters to tell me what was so great about Fred Thompson. Aside from the empty line that he’s the “true conservative” in the race, all I got was evidence of a serious man crush. He’s big. He’s tough. He’s manly. He’s a leader. And did you see that tight butt of his? The right wing’s greatest fear has been realized. Our plan of using Hollywood to push the vaunted “gay agenda” and turn the Republican base gay has worked beyond our wildest imaginations!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thriller in Manilla

Ok. There is absolutely nothing political about this post, but I wanted to make you laugh, and if this doesn't do it, we are not really friends.

Legislation Alert

I have a friend who is a political consultant (surprise, surprise). He works for both political candidates and organizations who need help with political issues. So, I asked him what he was working on now, and he was telling me about H.R. 1459 / S.543. Bill Description: "To improve Medicare beneficiary access by extending the 60 percent compliance threshold used to determine whether a hospital or unit of a hospital is an inpatient rehabilitation facility."

Right now, rehab hospitals are being forced to use what is called the 75% rule when admitting patients. The 75% Rule is a policy that imposes substantial restrictions on the number of patients who can receive care in rehabilitation hospitals and units and the types of medical diagnoses they treat.

Think about all of the reasons someone might go to a rehab hospital. The government has decided that there are only 13 conditions it is willing to pay the medicare expenses on. The problem with the 75% rule is that if 75% of the patients at the rehab hospital (medicare and non-medicare) aren't being treated for one 0f the 13 conditions, then the government doesn't have to pay the medicare bills. It would be like if the U.S. Dept of Education suddenly told colleges that 75% of all their students (whether they receive federal aid or not) had to have one of only 13 majors or the Dept of Ed. would not pay for the Pell grants, and other federal aid for any student at that school. This means that at times a rehab hospital might be forced to turn away a patient, even if it has beds available, in order to keep its percentage at 75.

What this bill will do is lower that number to 60%. That is a good thing. This helps ensure that doctors and patients make health care decisions rather than meeting some formula based standard. I am one of those silly people who thinks that doctors should be allowed to make decisions that are good for their patients, as opposed to the government making those decisions for them.

The bill is being sponsored by Rep. John Tanner and Sen. Lamar Alexander. Every member of the Tennessee delegation (Democrats and Republicans) has signed on as a co-sponsor, except for Congressman Jim Cooper.

So, how can you help? You can call or email your Representatives and thank them for supporting this legislation. You can also call and email Congressman Cooper and let him know that it is important that he signs on as a co-sponsor of this bill. I am putting the contact information below.

Rep. Jim Cooper

Rep. David Davis
Rep. John Duncan
Rep. Zach Wamp
Rep. Lincoln Davis
Rep. Bart Gordon (contact information is on his homepage)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Rep. John Tanner
Rep. Steve Cohen (contact information is on his homepage)

Sen. Bob Corker
Sen. Lamar Alexander

List of Candidates

Yesterday, I promised you a list of candidates, and here they are via The Memphis Flyer.

List of Candidates

At this point, there isn't a seat that is uncontested.

Of course, a lot of things can change in a week. Some of these candidates will talk to each other and realize that they will pull from the same base and split the vote. Others will realize that they don't have the desire to work as hard as they will need to work in order to win. Some might even realize that without money, their campaigns will never get off the ground. Those are all valid reasons for withdrawing before the ballot is set, and I am guessing that some people on the list will withdraw.

If nothing else, the next few months will prove to be very interesting. I know that the Memphis chapter of Drinking Liberally will be hosting some of these candidates, and if you are running and wanting to come talk to some good people who lean to the left and consistently vote, feel free to send Stacy, Rick, Pam and Rebecca an email. The contact information is on the website.

I will post a follow up next week with the final ballot.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. No, not because the Emmy nominations came out this morning (although can we talk about the fact that Friday Night Lights was ignored?).

No, the reason today is one of my favorite days of the year is because today is the day where everyone who is running for the city elections has to turn in their petitions. We get to find out who is in, who is out, and who couldn't find the 25 voters necessary to support their campaigns.

Looking at the list I saw yesterday, there are several people running who I am really excited about. Shea Flinn, my fellow blogger - Desi Franklin, Bill Morrison (from last year's race against Rep. Marsha Blackburn), and, of course, my good friend Jim Strickland are all running for the city council. There are about 15 people running for Mayor (16 if Mongo pays his fees). I also like the fact that there are only a couple of uncontested council positions at this time (District 8, position 1 and District 4).

I actually agree with Wendi, I wish some of the people who ran against the Congressman were running for local office (Tyson? Ed? Lee?). I think it would be nice for people who thought they wanted to be the next Congressman to be visible on the local level. It is a good way for people to get to know you and find out what you are all about. If there were any kind of boot camp for federal office, I am guessing the Memphis City Council or the Shelby County Commission qualify.

Of course, even though the filing deadline is today, we won't know until next week who is actually on the ballot, because candidates have a week to withdraw their names. I think that is a good idea. It gives people a chance to back out gracefully if they are worried about their competition.

I will post a full list of all the people who have filed petitions as soon as I get it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th!

May there be plenty of hot dogs and fireworks in your future - just not from the Mayor's office.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kudos for Pesky

Have y'all been reading Chris Davis's stories on the Networx debacle? If not, you are dead to me.

Start here and here then cruise over here and read the articles that he has posted on the blog. (For those of you who are easily confused, remember his work for the Flyer is separate from his work on his personal blog.)

His work in tracking down what is going on with public funds in this deal has just been outstanding, and I am looking forward to seeing where this leads. Already it has led to some of the City Council members asking the MLGW board to postpone the impending sale, and they agreed. Hopefully, MLGW and the Council will look into some of what is going on before they agree to sell.

I had a long talk with Chris tonight, and his enthusiasm for this story is contagious. There is something about watching one of my friends use his talent in a way that helps make the place we live better that makes me even prouder to be a friend of his. (That and his ability to sing a country song that will make your mama weep).

Stay tuned, because I have a feeling that there is more to come on this issue.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Quick Note From Selmer

To everyone who emailed, called, and texted me concerned about whether or not I had family injured in the wreck in Selmer, thanks. I was actually back in Selmer that day and I had a lot of family members right there at the scene. Luckily, it doesn't seem like any of them were hurt. I do have people that I went to church with growing up and played baseball with that were. Information is still a bit hard to come by, even if you were there. Thanks again.
David

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Type Topless and They Will Watch...

Now, I'm rarely one to defend Mayor Herenton, but let me say a few things.

1. Damn. That man is good at what he does. That press conference and this whole storyline is EXACTLY what he needs to be reelected. The "white Man" is trying to destroy this "strong black man" and you need to stop this from happening. That is exactly the storyline he needs to be writing.

2. What is up with the television screen still saying the waitress was a stripper? Truthiness and all, I suppose.

3. Okay. That's it. Let's just tie up Rich Fields and toss him in Olive Branch somewhere. Seriously, can that guy not STFU for five minutes?

Monday, June 11, 2007

God Bless Capitalism…

http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/midsouth_news/article/0,1426,MCA_1497_5579868,00.html

This little town called Eureka Springs in Arkansas is going start registering and performing ceremonies for gay couples and unmarried couples. It won’t really have any of the legal benefits of marriage, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Of course, it’s mostly just a ploy by the little town to make some money, but still. The idea of Arkansas as a gay marriage destination is causing me much amusement.

Technology and me were having our differences yesterday so I’m off to do something that doesn’t involve broken copy machines, copy card machines, or email programs that freeze up every time you push send. It’s probably better for my blood pressure.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I Go Out of Town...

And they ban public smoking in Tennessee?

And Peete resigns?

And the Grizzlies even manage to blow a draft?

And our Panda gets knocked up?

Geeze... How long was I gone? As promised, however, I am back, and ready to blog. Just as soon as I get off work and get unpacked and stuff.

Congratulations to Jeannie Richardson for her victory in the District 89 Democratic primary. I am friends with Kevin Gallagher, and he would have been a great State Representative. I do not know Jeannie well (although I expect I'll have to remedy that soon,) but her background is impressive. The two candidates were both right on the issues and both would have represented us well. It was nice to have to choose between the greater of two goods instead of the lesser of two evils when I voted.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Someone Had a Bad Night...

I was walking back from lunch today and noticed a blue teddy bear holding a big pink heart in the gutter. Its head was torn off and laying near it. Farther on down the road there was a shattered beer bottle. I'm assuming those were related.

It's a tragedy.

The teddy bears always suffer the most from a break-up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No Reserved Seating

One of the most frustrating things that we had to deal with as a campaign during the Congressional election was that we were constantly hearing that the TN-09 House seat should be held by an African - American. The argument was that Congressman Cohen didn't even deserve to run for the seat because he didn't match the skin color (and in some cases it was religion) of a large group of people that he would be representing.

We had a great group of people standing with us, helping us overcome those ideas. And, in the 5 months that the Congressman has been in office, I would think the majority of people would agree that the TN 9th Congressional District has been very well represented by the white man from Midtown.

So, I always find it irritating when I see emails or letters written by the very people who supported the Congressman saying that the District 89 seat should go to a woman just because we were well represented by women in the past. District 89 does have a history of held by women - Pam Gaia, Carol Chumney, and Beverly Marrero have all served in that seat. So, therefore, some are arguing that only a woman can serve in District 89 from this point on.

The logic was faulty in the Congressional race and it is faulty now. Jeanne Richardson doesn't have dibs on the seat just because she is the only woman running.

I have only met Ms. Richardson one time. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about her. I trust my friends who tell me that she is a good person who would make a good State Representative. This isn't an attack on her ability to serve.

It also isn't an attack on wanting more diversity in our elected officials. I would love to see all people represented by their elected officials. I would love it if they had so many women and minorities serving in various political offices that groups like EMILY'S List, the Women's Political Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and other groups would no longer be necessary.

I guess my hope for this campaign is that we will stop focusing on gossip and gender and the various people behind the scenes in the race and start focusing on the issues that face District 89. Who will do the best job when it comes to education, crime, and the environment. I think most of you know by now that I think Kevin Gallagher is that person.

So, let's get past the petty issues in this campaign. Let's get beyond race and gender. Let's get beyond the gossip and the backstabbing going on behind the scenes. Let's all show up on Sunday at the Stonewall Democrats' forum and listen to two candidates discussing their positions on issues that affect the people who live in District 89. Listen to what they talk about. Listen to what they want to do. Then vote for the candidate who you feel will represent you best.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Stax Music Academy: A Bright Jewel Right Here in Memphis

Last night, for paltry sum of $5, I was treated to two and a half hours of incredible homegrown musical talent at the Stax Music Academy SNAP spring concert. The Rose Theatre at the U of M was sold out, and everyone was on their feet clapping and cheering repeatedly, definitely including me.

There are no less than five musical ensembles at the Stax Music Academy. First up were the Premier Percussionists, who were just as described, and had some great dance moves, too. I think I'm going to try swinging those big bass drums in the air like they did for my next cardio and upper body workout. Next time they perform, I expect to see them do Stomp - they were that good.

Then the Soulsville Symphony Orchestra, looking to be mainly middle school students, performed a medley of Stax songs ("Mr. Big Stuff", "Hold On, I'm Coming", "the Theme from Shaft") with real dexterity. My favorite of their set was "I Got You (I Feel Good)".

Next up was the Stax Swing Band. These high school kids have only been playing together in this band since last fall, and they just returned from a gig at Jazzfest in New Orleans, where we should be proud that all in attendance went away knowing that Memphis music is alive and well. Oh my God.... they were FABULOUS! Their skill, their stage presence, their choreography, their sun glasses, they got it all, including a conductor who wears a white dinner jacket and bow tie. Smooth.

But wait, there's more.

The Stax Rhythm Section performed during the last half of the concert. These look to be mainly high school juniors and seniors (although the talented and eccentric Forrest Sansing, a 9th grader who went to day care with Desinator, Jr., was featured on keyboards). They are hot!! The saxophonists, the bass player, the drummer - all incredible. Two of their group are heading to Berklee School of Music in Boston on scholarships. The seniors were highlighted at one point, and I closed my eyes and thought, I'm in a great jazz club somewhere in Chicago or New Orleans. They were that good.

Then the Rhythm Section backed up a group of mostly female vocalists, the Street Corner Harmonies, who sang a tribute to Carla Thomas ("Gee Whiz", "Baby") as well as a pretty saucy version of "Who's Making Love to Your Old Lady (While You Were Out Making Love)".

Finally, as if two hours of all this musical fabulosity - performed by Memphis middle and high schoolers, most of whom attend the Stax Academy charter school and/or after school program - wasn't enough, Memphis natives Kirk Whalum, the artist in residence at Stax Music Academy and my favorite Grammy nominated jazz saxophonist, and Wendy Moten performed with the Rhythm Section, doing their cover of Stevie Wonder's "All I Do", "Come In Out of the Rain" and Aretha Franklin's "Think".

For the finale, a shy young boy named Aaron sang "Falling In Love With Jesus" and brought down the house.

I ask you - where else can you go and be entertained like this for $5? Of course, on the way out, most of the audience, including me, gladly threw something more in the Jam Jars in the lobby.

If you weren't there, let me suggest that you go straight to the Stax Museum/Music Academy website and, after you click on "Donate" and support what they're doing over there at Soulsville, click on "E-News Signup" so you are in the know for the next concert they perform. This was the second such concert, and from now on I'm sure they will all be sold out.

I'm hoping that some of these students will grow up and provide venues for jazz here in Memphis. In the meantime, next time you're feeling like this city of ours is hopeless, just know that efforts like Soulsville, overseen by the great Miss Deanie Parker, are what make Memphis great.

Whew!!! I'm still excited.

The True Meaning of Mother's Day...

A lot of people would like us to forget the original meaning of Mother's Day. It was meant as an advocation of peace, and a rejection of violence and war.

This is a short documentary, put together by Robert Greenwald, that is meant to remind us of the true meaning of Mother's Day. These are things we all need to remember every day, when our children are innundated with the glorification of violence and war.

Julia Ward Howe's poem is performed at the end. It is very moving, if taken to heart. I believe mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends should take up the responsibility of propigating peace. Teach the children that something as simple as a smile can make someone's day. Teach them that problems cannot and should not be solved with violence, and that war itself is failure. There is no victory in violence.

This is so tough. As a teacher, I often see kids whose own parents encourage them to get in fights at school. I've seen kids duke it out over a stolen pencil. I've had kids tell me that their parents don't care if they get in fights as school, as long as they "win". I've seen a teenage girl threaten to kill another teenage girl over a plastic headband. How can we fight this? How does a society prevent it's children from decending into bitterness and rage?

I suppose it all has to happen one step, and one child at a time. I feel like Sisyphus on a daily basis.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A C For Tennessee?

Bredesen will leave office in a couple years, and we'll have an open seat race for Governor. The Republicans are already having some stirring about Bill Frist and Marsha Blackburn. From the Democrats, I hear a little mumbling about Lincoln Davis, but not a whole lot. An interesting idea. What about A C Wharton? He'd have a strong base in the Democratic primary because of his Memphis background. He's a well-liked moderate who could play well across the state. If Ford can pull the Senate race as close as he did, how much could A C do without Ford's youth and family troubles? Plus, the governor's race is less ideological, and therefore easier to swing Democratic in a marginally Republican state than is a Senate seat? What are your thoughts? Is there any excitement out there for turning up the AC in Tennessee?

NOTE: No. I did not get asked to post this, nor have I been hearing rumours to that affect. I'm merely thinking out loud.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yes we can! Well, maybe, if it isn't raining. Or hot.

Si se puede

It boggles my mind that 150,000 people were able to ban together to protest immigration policy in Chicago. Not because I disagree with them, but just the picture in my head of 150,000 people getting together to do anything amazes me. There are plenty of issues that I care about - but nothing has ever pushed me into a protest. When I was a kid in Central Gardens, and they were planning on building the Clanlo homes, some of the kids on my block wanted to protest the loss of our special place, but let's face it we were going to lose, so we decided to play capture the flag instead.

Every morning as I drive to work, I pass the corner of Central and Parkway. Every Wednesday morning, this small group of people have gathered on the corner to protest the war. Sometimes it is only one or two people, sometimes it is more. Rain or shine, those people are there. I always hope that the crowd gets bigger as the morning goes on, but somehow, I doubt that it does.

So, to Martin Sheen (my president) who apparently has been arrested for protesting hundreds of times, to the over 150,000 people in Chicago who came out to protest their issue, and to my little group of war protesters on the corner - Si se puede.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Weekend of a Political Junkie

I had a pretty good weekend filled with a lot of political activity. I started off on Friday night at a Fundraiser for one of my favorite Congressman. I then hit the trolley tour to stump for one of the mayoral candidates.

Saturday, I did some canvassing and went to a crawfish boil, where three of my current political candidates were in attendance. (Jim, you need a website.) I talked politics (and Nascar?) with a lot of people over the course of the weekend, and I could talk politics all the time.

Then tonight, I read this on MSNBC. Hillary announced that if she is elected, she would make my favorite President "a roaming ambassador to the world, using his skills to repair the nation's tattered image abroad." That is so awesome. I was hoping that she would give her husband an important task in her hypothetical administration - the way that she had a strong role in his. Plus, it is just another thing that will piss off all of those Clinton haters. Of course, she could say that she was going to keep him in a closet for four years and they would still be pissed off, so she might as well get some use out of him.

It almost makes me want to vote for her.

But, back to the point of me telling you the details of my weekend. It was a great weekend to be a politically connected person. There was everything that makes this job great - personal contact with voters, fundraising, talking issues with educated people. This is why I do what I do. So, thanks to all of you who helped me do what I do by doing what you do. You made the weekend fun.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Prayer Request

Please keep Margo's papaw and his family in your prayers. He's in the hospital again and his kidneys and other organs are failing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Secret Identity

Since we are in the business of outing bloggers, I thought I'd come clean and give up my mask and cape. The West Tennessee Liberal you know and love is really... John Willingham. Yup. That's me. The ole iconoclastic also-ran himself. Ignore that part where it says David Holt under this post. That was just to cover my tracks.

In other news, I will return to blogging just as soon as finals end (May 4th, although that is followed by the law review competition, which should be slightly less hectic.) I have missed blogging the past few months, I will have a lot of pent-up-egotistical-rants to let loose. Be ready...

And since I am in District 89, I felt compelled to mention how weird this race might be for a special election in Memphis. Jeannie is talking about qualifications and background. Kevin is talking about issues. They're both having events in the district. I thought I was just supposed to vote based on race, gender, and last names. Now I'm confused.

I haven't seen a webpage for Jeannie yet. Let me know if she has one. Kevin has a webpage and an issue-based blog. Check them out.

www.TennIssues.blogspot.com

www.VoteKevinGallagher.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Inspiration

Sorry that I have been gone for awhile, but I have been a little uninspired lately, and wasn't sure what to write about.

So many things have happened since my last post, and it seems like my fellow bloggers say what I want to say, only better.

I wish I could talk about the Virginia Tech tragedy, the Supreme Court's ridiculous ruling on late term abortions, or even what I should expect from my elected officials as well as my friends (y'all are my friends, right?) do, but I just haven't gotten fired up enough to tackle any of those subjects.

The thing that is pissing me off right now is that one of my really good friends is being attacked for no reason other than a personal grudge, and it isn't right.

I have known Kevin for over ten years. We worked together in 1996 when then Senator Steve Cohen decided to run for Congress the first time. I am sure I knew him before then, but that is when our friendship started. After the 1996 campaign, I didn't see him regularly. Every now and then he would be on the news speaking for Mayor Wharton or I would see his name in the paper, and it would make me smile.

During the 2006 Congressional race, I worked with Kevin every day. I saw the sacrifices - both personal and professional - that he was making to make sure Steve Cohen was elected to Congress. Anyone who says that Kevin did not give his heart and soul during that campaign (or any other campaign he has worked on) is a liar. I would not have made it through the entire campaign if Kevin hadn't been there to help me.

Last night, I was at a fundraiser for Kevin, and I sat and watched as a group of former interns, two former chairs of the Shelby County Democratic party, friends, family, and others came to show their support and lend a hand with the campaign. The kind of loyalty Kevin inspires is amazing, and I can only hope that the voters in District 89 make the right choice and elect Kevin to work as hard for them in Nashville as he has worked here.

So, here is what I need you to do. If you can afford it, give Kevin some money. If you can't, come volunteer with the campaign. If you live in District 89, vote for him. Memphis will be well represented by Kevin Gallgher - we just need to work together to make it happen.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We Need This Conversation

I always knew there were a lot of you lurkers out there. Now I really know it. The Site Meter shows a blogger all sorts of interesting information about site traffic. What I can tell is that in the last week, there have been a whole lot of site visits and page views (views of specific blog entries) on the blog. In fact, the site meter projects that, based on the traffic over the last hour, there will be 6 site visits over the next hour, 312 over the next day, 2,160 over the next week and 4,320 over the next month. Contrast that with, based on the traffic over the last month, 4 in the next hour, 88 in the next day, 608 in the next week and 2,635 in the next month.

And that's way down from where the site traffic was last weekend when I last posted about racism.

I'm glad these posts on racism are being read. But I'm sad that it's not a conversation. Because that's what we need. What a week, too, for differing national news stories framed by race: Don Imus' flameout (no tears here) and the Duke lacrosse players' vindication of innocence.

I'll be gone again until next week, so thanks for reading and, as always, feel free to comment. But at this point I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Memphis Enslaved - The Politics of Resignation

These recent posts on racism have been visited just today by people from Memphis, Vermont, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Reno, Mobile, Seattle, Nashville, Des Moines, Denver, Delhi, etc. For those of you in Memphis who are reading these posts - and the site meter tells me there are a lot more of you visiting the site than for months - as usual (sigh), you are hesitant to comment. Don't forget that you can open a blogger account with a fake name; it's almost as good as posting anonymously.

I imagine you are afraid to be tagged a racist. But the truth is, until we get our honest thoughts on the table and examine our racial biases, we will continue to operate under what the authors of The Church Enslaved call "the politics of resignation".

The premise of this approach is that the differences between blacks and whites are significant, insurmountable, unchanging and for some, valuable. Saddled with this viewpoint, we develop coping strategies that allow us to continue existing as discrete, impenetrable subcultures. We believe that we are never going to change racism in our lifetimes.

So we accept as normal concepts like the black community and white crossover voting. Groups and institutions that are based on or perpetuate racial division like the NAACP, Jack and Jill, Cotillion and the Memphis Country Club continue in existence. Maybe the comfort we get from the status quo would be ok if the interests served by these separate subgroups were not in conflict - if their perpetuation and the perpetuation of the politics of resignation did not prevent large swaths of our community from attaining physical safety and prosperity or encourage those who benefit from our city and county's resources to leave or build community-proof lives.

There's more to come on this subject, but for the next few days work will keep me from posting. In the meantime, as always, your comments are invited.

Economics and Racism - a Few Comments to Consider

In the comments to my earlier post on economics and racism,

bob said...

"...what Polar Donkey's maps reveal is only one piece of the economic impact of continuing racism..."

How about a wording change, substituting cause for effect:

"...what Polar Donkey's maps reveal is only one piece of an economic toolkit that can be used for racial oppression and suppression, in lieu of the more direct-overt techniques that are now illegal..."

I responded:
Is the preservation of economic wealth in the hands of whites a premeditated effort by the current white business community to oppress blacks?

Or is it the product of that community's (perhaps unconscious) assumptions of their superiority, reinforced by their avoidance of relationships with blacks as peers and, because of their resulting ignorance of what life is like for nonwhites, their denial of the political and economic significance of racism?
The ever honest bob is having none of that.

Per bob, "Economic oppression. Racial oppression. Which is the cart, and which is the horse? Or should we really be asking: Who is the driver -- and what map is he using? Your book talks about, as you mention, a form of modern racism that manifests itself as "blame the victim." Granted, many people who do this are just being clueless. But can we completely discount the possibility that others are, shall we say, not so clueless?"

My thoughts in return:
In my experience, these are either the whites who continually attempt to flee integration by moving to the next new "white haven" or, if they still live in Memphis or Shelby County, it's either because (a) they are upper middle class and are able to afford to live insular lives - gated communities, private schools, discriminatory clubs, etc. or (b) they are too poor to move. As to these prosperous Memphians, one might even say they have successfully disinvested entirely in the community except where they have no choice (i.e., property taxes).

Many of these whites are politically conservative and religiously fundamentalist. The Church Enslaved points out that, for all of these peoples' opposition to talk of evolution, they are actually social Darwinists. Their world view is very much based on an individualist view of sin, and they feel society should favor those who are best equipped or behave in the way best suited to thrive in the system.

My point earlier is just that with the end of legalized racism, business leaders no longer intentionally structure the rules to favor them and their type. So, for example, I do not think First Tennessee or SunTrust or Regions management sits around with maps looking at where minorities live with a view to getting the hell out of Dodge. However, because of the people described above, the drain of wealth from areas causes for profit institutions like banks to consider profitability. And profitability means deposits, and customers who can and do pay interest and fees. When those customers flee to another area, so go the banking institutions.

Not done by design institutionally using a tool kit, but driven by racism nonetheless.
Looking for your thoughts....any solutions here?

Memphis Enslaved - Internalized Racism Exhibited by Blacks

The authors of The Church Enslaved write:
Racism in American society doesn't have to do simply with the behaviors and attitudes of white people toward people of color. A significant dimension of racism's embedded character involves internalized racism on the part of people of color.
They describe five "internalized oppressions" displayed by blacks:
  • Beating the system - avoiding or failing to develop life skills that are usually deemed necessary for succeeding in most efforts.
  • Blaming the system - assigning responsibility for their failures onto the structures that were supposed to prepare them to succeed, but not considering their personal roles in such failures.
  • Avoiding contact - this is not only the black converse behavior of white avoidance: that is, blacks avoiding living with and around whites. It also includes: (i) distrusting all white people, and (ii) rejecting other black people who are perceived as not being "black enough", either because of their actual skin tone or because of their cultural preferences that seem to mirror white culture.
  • Denying cultural heritage - showing preference for whites out of a distrust of their own group or shedding black cultural distinctions out of a belief in the superiority or advantages of white culture.
  • Lack of understanding or minimizing the political significance of racial oppression - (a) practicing passive and unassertive behaviors or (b) discrimination against other black people perceived to be less powerful, usually as an expression of their own feelings of powerlessness.
There being different definitions of racism, another one holds that black people cannot be racist; that such a term can only apply to whites (and for some, not only can racism only be exhibited by whites, but all white people are racist, because of their prejudices combined with being members of the power structure). This definition views racism as the confluence of prejudice and power. Thus, the viewpoint is that since whites hold economic and political power and blacks do not, black people can be prejudiced, but not racist.

Whether you hold to that definition of racism or not, what are the effects on racial reconciliation when, for instance, blacks view all whites with distrust?

Is the self-fulfilling nature of this "internalized racism" borne out when blacks, because they distrust the motives of all whites, either refuse or fail to reach out to form one-on-one relationships with whites? When whites reach out to engage in relationship with blacks and their motives are looked on with suspicion, are opportunities for change lost, resulting in the perpetuation of racism?

Is this form of internalized oppression diminishing as older black Americans (and Memphians) - whose lives and opportunities were shaped by legal racism, and for whom the struggles of the civil rights movement were very real - are succeeded by those for whom those experiences are history lessons and who have experienced opportunities denied to their elders?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Economic Effect of Racism - the Perpetuation of Poverty

LeftWing Cracker has made a point that is, of course, seminal to any discussion of race in Memphis - one of the most far reaching effects of racism - its economic impact on black Memphians. He is, of course, right about Polar Donkey's maps of payday loan/check cashing locations and mainstream financial institution locations.

Polar Donkey's posts about the locations of market cost versus exploitative cost banking services are the most valuable of his blogging commentaries in my opinion - and fundamental learning for any white Memphian who is sincerely interested in understanding how privileged they are, and what life is like in those parts of our community where that white person most likely does not live.

If you take a look at these maps, you can imagine for yourself what life would be like if, to get to your bank (where they typically charge higher fees to maintain an account with a smaller balance), you had to travel miles from home, as you would if you live in southwest Memphis or north Memphis. Of course, if you have a job that doesn't pay much, you may not drive a reliable late model vehicle or, for that matter, any vehicle, which could make getting to the bank difficult to impossible. You may have cash flow issues, too, which could cause you to incur $32 in charges per bounced check - even if you have transportation to get you to the closest bank.

When you drive through south Memphis, you can't help but notice the vacant buildings that very obviously used to be bank branches. I don't know whether the abandonment of these neighborhoods by the mainstream financial institutions is more the result of banking consolidation, which has eliminated 2 of our 3 historically locally owned banks, or the abandonment of these neighborhoods over the last 5-20 years by former white inhabitants who keep moving further and further east and the resulting lower profitability of these banking locations as those with the money (i.e., the banking deposits) leave, or both.

Yet, what Polar Donkey's maps reveal is only one piece of the economic impact of continuing racism - access to market cost financial institutions. This says nothing of the economic impact on the black community of employment disparities.

Now, many whites will argue, yes, but higher paying jobs require qualified hires. And given the education system here, and the culture of family instability in the black community that produces people who don't have the necessary skills or work ethic for those jobs, whaddya gonna do?

I wonder if this sort of commentary, which I know I've heard many times, when voiced by the racially uneducated white Memphian, could be an example of blaming the victim (attributing systemic oppression to the one who suffers under it) and denying the political significance of differences (minimizing the differing influence that social, political, economic, historical and psychological realities have on the lives of people of color and white).

This is clearly a major part of the equation with regard to the effects of racism in Memphis (or anywhere). And I wanted to respond to it.

But I also think there is great value in continuing to consider the basic concepts offered by The Church Enslaved, such as the very nature of racism, the historic roots of institutionalized racism and racist taboos and myths.

Of course, as always, feel free to comment.