Wed
May 23 2007
10:04 am

Tom Humphrey files this report, also involving drama, political intrigue, e-mails, and Sen. Burchett, who seems to be having a bad week.

19
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Wed
May 23 2007
09:37 am

Tom Humphrey files this report. There was some drama involving e-mails, high-profile lobbyists, and an exchange between an AT&T lobbyist and Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville), who objected to being called an "obstructionist." He voted against the bill in the committee.

One amendment would establish a new cable control board with representatives from local governments in addition to state officials. The original proposal would have put cable franchises under control of the Tennessee Regulatory Agency.

The bill cleared the committee by a vote of 6-3. Voting for the bill were Senators Beavers, Bunch, Crutchfield, Southerland, Stanley, and Wilder. Voting against were Senators Burchett, Burks, and Tate.

The House Commerce Committee deferred action again. It has previously cleared the House Utilities, Banking, and Small Business sub-committee.

The KNS has another editorial today with what sounds like a lukewarm endorsement of the AT&T proposal in order to promote more broadband access. We agree with the KNS on expanding broadband access. We wonder if this bill will actually do that (see links below for background).

For example, we live in a relatively new development. We have been begging BellSouth, now AT&T, for DSL service for more than three years and still can't get it. We are inside the city limits with all new infrastructure and utilities. We are exactly the kind of neighborhood where you would expect AT&T to "cherry pick".

And in fact they have been invited by the City to submit a proposal for their new cable/broadband service, but as far as we know they have not responded. They could move into our area with their service any time they want, with or without a statewide franchise, but they won't. They won't even provide basic DSL.

How exactly does this increase competition again?

Previous posts about the bill can be found here and here.

My prediction: This bill will eventually pass this time around because of the intense lobbying effort and the massive "voter education" campaign that has convinced everyone that "competition" is good and will benefit them.

UPDATE: Joe Powell has more.

119
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Wed
May 23 2007
09:00 am
By: Andy Axel  shortURL

...you'll love Iran.

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.

The lame ducks are roosting.

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40
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Wed
May 23 2007
08:19 am

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has been introducing his Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act for four years now, and in every past year it has been sent off to committee to die a slow and quiet death.

In case you missed it, there was some good news about the bill recently. It made it out of committee and is headed to the floor for a vote. Finally.

It requires, among other things:

• A durable voter-verified paper ballot must be used or produced for every vote cast

• Accessible verification of the paper ballot must be provided

• All paper-based systems (including thermal reel-to-reel systems and accessible systems that used or produced a paper ballot) used in 2006 can be used until 2010; only systems that used no paper ballots at all must be replaced or upgraded by November 2008.

• $1 billion in funding is authorized for system replacement and upgrading

• Paper ballot is vote of record in all recounts and audits, as a check on electronic tallies

• Routine random audits by hand count in 3% of the precincts in all Federal elections, and 5% or 10% in very close races (but races decided by 80% or more need not be audited)

• $100 million each fiscal year is authorized to fund the audits

• Ban on the use of wireless devices and uncertified or undisclosed software

• Arms-length relationship between test labs and vendors is established, through EAC intermediary which receives test fees, appoints test labs, and publishes test results

You should contact your Representative and urge him/her to vote for this bill, H.R. 811, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act.

UPDATE: I just wrote Rep. Jimmy Duncan, and thought to check if he was already one of the 216 cosponsors of the bill. I don't see his name on the list. Rep. Zach Wamp is a cosponsor, as are Reps. Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Lincoln Davis, Bart Gordon, and John Tanner. That leaves Reps. Duncan, David Davis, and Marsha Blackburn as the only Tennessee Representatives who haven't signed on as cosponsors.

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Tue
May 22 2007
09:54 pm

Today was the first day little was said about the missing soldiers. I fear the worst. Certainly the animosity a huge search based on "interogated" informants will lead these poor guys on many a wild goose chase and perhaps even ambush. I thought this article was beautifully written and the photo visceral. Damn this ugly war!

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Tue
May 22 2007
09:23 pm
By: Andy Axel  shortURL


Senator Pilate (D-NV) delivers the Democratic response to the Bush veto threat: "We're out."

The Senate majority in action:

Flinching in the face of a veto threat, Democratic congressional leaders neared agreement with the Bush administration Tuesday on legislation to pay for the Iraq war without a troop withdrawal timeline.

Several officials said the emerging compromise would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities — originally resisted by the White House — such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought.

After a bruising veto struggle over the war, congressional leaders in both political parties said they hoped the compromise would be cleared for President Bush's signature by Friday.

In power less than five months, Democrats swiftly vowed to renew their challenge to Bush's war policies this summer.

"We're going to continue our battle — and that's what it is — to represent the American people like they want us to represent them, to change the course of the war in Iraq," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Gee, I wonder why Congressional approval ratings are lagging behind the president's... hm... hm...

I see that I got my "YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS CRITICAL TO OUR NEXT 60 DAYS" notice from the Hillary Clinton campaign today.

[shred]

UPDATE: The blank check passes the Senate, 80-14. Sources indicate that Clinton and Obama both voted "no."

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Tue
May 22 2007
05:29 pm

Knox County's Intergovernmental and Finance Committees did not adjourn at the end of their Monday meetings, but instead recessed until 8 a.m., Thursday the 24th, in the Main Assembly Room. It is scheduled to run until noon. Community Television (Ch. 12 on Comcast) will cover it. It is a busy agenda.

First, each of the Departments will have up to ten minutes to discuss its individual budget (clerk, judge, law director, register of deeds, property assessor, sheriff, trustee, etc.).

Then, consideration of Non-Profit Agencies and Community Grant Funds.

Then a Public Forum.

Then, consideration of the various budget, taxes, and borrowing resolutions.

--Mark Harmon

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Tue
May 22 2007
01:27 pm
By: bill young  shortURL

The race for the super delegates is on.The Hill reports Clinton,Obama & Edwards have whip organizations to drum up super delegates in the House.

The super delegates were put in the Party rules after the'72 convention. To prevent a McGovern takeover from happening again.

These delegates are not elected in the primary/county-congressional district convention system.

They are elected officials & former elected officials & are automatic delegates.There are 850 super delegates.

This is how these things get wrapped up so quick. A candidate gets within striking distance of the 2500 needed to win.

Boom Super Delegates step in; Game Over.

By the way Richardson is up to 10% in Iowa & N.H. Has Great web site.

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Tue
May 22 2007
11:09 am

According to a recent letter to the Editor at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, "your publication continues to print columnists who refer to the president as a liar" (scroll down to the last letter).

The News-Sentinel can't win. They get rid of Don Williams and their readers demand more.

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23
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Tue
May 22 2007
10:58 am
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Researchers from the University of Tennessee and Texas Tech are conducting a survey of blog readers. I took it and it's an interesting survey about where you get news and information and how you use it, your perceptions about the quality of information from various sources, including information about the Iraq war.

The results should be interesting. They are trying to reach blog users from a wide range of political perspectives and from a wide variety of blogs.

They note that "All responses are confidential and anonymous. The data base is not housed online. No information is sold or otherwise shared with others and follows strict research protocol as approved by the University of Tennessee."

If you'd like to participate, here's the link:

A Survey of Blogs and Blog Users

15
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Mon
May 21 2007
09:59 pm
By: Andy Axel  shortURL

Scroll down to where Bob Somerby dismantles Nashville Scene "editor" Liz Garrigan's hagiography of Fred Thompson (printed in the Washington Post this weekend):

In the last year, even mainstream journalists have been forced to acknowledge Gore’s brilliant work on global warming—and they’ve even been forced to admit that he was right on Iraq. ... But so what? For Garrigan, images of “roadkill” still roll off the tongue as she recites the time-honored scripts about Gore—scripts with no clear tie to reality. Did Naomi Wolf tell Gore to wear earth tones, as Garrigan suggests in this time-honored passage? Wolf denied it; Gore denied it; and no one ever presented evidence that it had actually happened. (Nor did anyone ever explain why it was supposed to matter.) But so what? Garrigan knows her cohort’s treasured scripts, and she’ll never stop repeating them. In her blinkered world, Bush still hasn’t destroyed the known world, and Gore still hasn’t become a world savior; she still lives in the “road-kill” days, when the press mocked Gore for his fake, phony wardrobe. And she sees no pattern—other than “luck”—in the fact that Gore got trashed for his clothes, while Thompson only got praised for his blatant “makeover.” That’s just luck, this daft woman says. Luck—and Fred Thompson’s brilliance.

But then, Garrigan is still churning the dumbest framework from Campaign 2000—the dumbest framework known to humanity.

Yet, somehow, this unreconstructed Fredophilia makes one of the national papers of record. Shocker.

Liz Garrigan is married to a guy who's a key player in the next Nashville mayoral race. She (and her newspaper) and her husband fully support DINO David Briley in the next cycle.

Hackery triumphs.

Get ready for President Thompson.

19
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Mon
May 21 2007
09:13 pm

The Supreme Court handed down a 6-2 majority ruling today that is a big time victory for parents of disabled children. The Federal law that governs special education is the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which mandates that children with special needs must be granted free access to appropriate public education. If parents disagree with the education plan a school district provides for their special needs child, parents have right to seek judicial review and, if all else fails, bring a civil suit against the school district on behalf of their child.

However, under the existing lower court rulings, parents have not been considered beneficiaries under IDEA, but instead merely guardians of their child. Hence, parents have had no standing to sue the school system themselves. Instead, they have had to hire an attorney for their child. This has undoubtedly been cost prohibitive for many parents who otherwise would have had a legitimate case.

The Supreme Court found that rights described in IDEA apply equally to the parents and to the special needs child. This makes parents full legal partners to their child under law. Thus, parents are able to bring a civil suit against a school district while representing themselves without an attorney pro se. The case is Winkelman v. Parma City School District (05-983).

21
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Mon
May 21 2007
01:15 pm

A local E.W. Scripps division is looking for an experienced Drupal/PHP developer for a full-time contract position.

Staci Martin-Wolfe (SWolfe[at]scrippsweb[dot]com) says they are looking for a full-time Drupal/PHP developer to work on a contract basis for some rapid development projects at Scripps. They have several projects and an immediate need for someone full-time on a contract basis to work from their office, although telecommuting a couple days a week would be OK too.

Click here for more info.

19
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Mon
May 21 2007
12:20 pm

The AT&T sponsored cable franchise bill is back on the calendar for tomorrow in both the House Commerce and Senate Commerce, Labor & Agriculture committees. Previous posts about the bill can be found here and here. (The Senate version now has ten amendments and I haven't had time to read them. Does anybody know what they say?)

The 40 cent cigarette tax is also back on the front burner. The tax, which is the funding mechanism for Gov. Bredesen's Schools First initiative, is on the joint House and Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee calendar for tomorrow.

Sen. Rosalind Kurita, who was previously rumored to have said she wouldn't support it because she wasn't asked to sponsor it, is fully on board. She and Rep. Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga), Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan Cooper, and 98 registered nurses held a rally at the State Capitol last week to support the cigarette tax and promote awareness of teen smoking. Kurita, a registered nurse, has long been a supporter of higher cigarette taxes to help fund health care and as a way to reduce smoking.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Senator Joe Haynes conducted a constituent survey last month that showed 68% of the 807 respondents favored the cigarette tax increase to help fund education. (The survey of Nashville area voters also revealed that 78% support raising the minimum wage to $6.15 and 77% support state spending for alternative fuel research and development.)

The workplace smoking ban is also back on the Senate Commerce, Labor and Agriculture and the House Agriculture committees for tomorrow. There has been some previous (and sometimes heated) debate about this here. There are all kinds arguments on both sides, but even to a future ex-smoker like myself this one is a no-brainer that should be passed right away.

57
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Mon
May 21 2007
11:55 am

Well, what so many already knew is now a fact. A recent report showed that allowing gays to serve in the Bristish military was a non-problem, a non-issue, even though many feared it would cause all kinds of difficulties.

“There was a lot of apprehension among some senior personnel that there would be an increase in things like bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and some of them were almost predicting that the world was going to come to an end,” the Defense Ministry official said.

"Similar concerns were raised when, bowing to national antidiscrimination laws, the military began allowing gay personnel who had registered for civil partnerships to live in military housing with their same-sex partners. “But all the problems the services thought were going to come to pass really haven’t materialized,” the official said."

The American military (and most of the public) of course, remains ignorant, provincial and bigoted about the reality of homosexuality and the hardships caused by anti-gay laws. Here, we'd rather have felons fighting for us. There has been in the past and there are today many gay military heroes fighting to preserve a culture that dimishes them every chance they get.

They deserve to be recognized, and they really ought to be let out of the closet. There's many things going on in this day and age that are far more obscene than being gay.

Topics:
27
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Mon
May 21 2007
11:52 am

Betty Bean has an update on the dispute between the City of Knoxville and Lamar Outdoor Advertising regarding electronic billboards. Scroll down to "Big boards are coming" (right after a great story about a promise kept).

According to the Beanster, the city has a temporary restraining order against them and Lamar's lawyer says a new state law trumps local ordinances. City Councilman Rob Frost disagrees. "State law says local governments have the option to enact something more stringent. It's up to local governments to decide if they want them or not," says Frost.

So what do you think? It makes sense for the advertising company to use the technology to be able to instantly update signs without all the expense of making giant posters and having people go out there to install them.

But they also want to change the sign electronically every eight seconds, and some think this will create a distraction resulting in a highway safety hazard. And what's next - high definition Really Big Screen movie trailers? TV style commercials?

Maybe the simple compromise is to have reasonable restrictions on the type of display permitted and the frequency with which it can change.

15
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Mon
May 21 2007
11:17 am

Way too cold for palm trees in Knoxville? I think not. I have had a Windmill Palm in my yard for the past 3 1/2 years. It is planted in the ground and has never been brought indoors.

My palm is now around 3 feet tall and doing well. It does get a blanket during the coldest weather and during long bouts of cold weather. It suffered more during the winter of 2005/2006 than this past year. They get tougher as they get older.

I ordered my Windmill palm from The Nursery at Ty Ty, GA. In 2005 at one of the UT Gardens plant sales, a local gentleman offered palm trees for sale. I purchase two (Windmill and Pindo (Jelly). The Pindo did not survive, primarily due to my lack of attention. There is a Southeastern Palm Society with a local contact in Chattanooga, TN.

We who love the tropics need not be penalized. Rumor is there are palm trees growing in Rhode Island!

132
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Mon
May 21 2007
07:32 am
By: bizgrrl  shortURL

TOAAW, come back soon, don't give up. Get rested and refreshed. Your voice is needed.

Adieu for now.

29
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Sun
May 20 2007
09:41 pm

I have continued my review of the proposed Knox County Budget, and hope to raise additional questions at tomorrow's meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee, 8:30 a.m. Here are some more observations.

SRF200-235pdf file, p. 55. Highway/Bridge Maintenance. A zero to $50,000 jump in "other professional services." What are we buying?

SRF pp. 50, 47, 43. We go from zero to $100,000, $120,000 and $3000 respectively for the Employee Benefits Engineering and Public Works Fund, the Highway Fundwide, and Drug Control Fundwide. What are these?

SRF p. 40. Why $50,000 more than requested in Transfers under Tourism?

SRF p. 22. Why $300,000 more than requested in Convenience Centers Building and Grounds Maintenance and $289,000 more than requested in Service Contracts?

SRF p. 21. Is the $19,000 budgeted for Workers Compensation Charges realistic? Past years have been twice that or more.

SRF p. 11. What is the $50,000 for the State General Library?

Writing of libraries, if any of the above items prove unjustified or unwise, some funds clearly needed to be shifted to schools and libraries. Library book/media acquisition budget is more than $48,000 below last year: $141,000 below two years ago.

The stormwater ordinance in our packet for tomorrow's meeting also has none of the dozen-plus suggestions I presented to make it as rigorous as that of the city. All the best, Mark Harmon

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