May 10 2007
09:01 am
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Sources tell us Sen. Kurita is a little frustrated that she isn't feeling the love from fellow Democrats and may be helping out the other team.

Kurita allegedly told senior members of the Governor's staff and at least one cabinet member that she won't vote for the Governor's Schools First cigarette tax increase because she isn't sponsoring the bill. This is apparently not the first time she has complained about not being chosen to sponsor the bill.

Kurita has in the past been a strong supporter of raising the cigarette tax, and sponsored a bill in 2005 that would have raised the tax to 60 cents, similar to the Governor's proposal except the money was to be used for TennCare and the general fund. It was rejected by the Senate Finance committee.

Kurita has also apparently complained that she can't get any bills passed in the House (other than a resolution honoring the Vanderbilt Women's Basketball team) and has even asked Gov. Bredesen to talk to Jimmy Naifeh about it.

There are also reports that she tipped off Republicans about Senate Democrat plans to amend the rules so that committee membership and leadership reflect the actual make up of the Senate (16 Democrats, 16 Republicans, 1 Independent) and told Republicans they should reinstate the rule requiring a 2/3 vote for rule changes in order to stop this. She supposedly told them they needed to do it while Senators Cooper and Ford were absent so that she could vote with the Democrats, giving her cover.

May 10 2007
08:23 am

The KNS has an update on their lawsuit involving alleged sunshine law violations that occurred during the appointment process to replace term-limited county commissioners.

KNS editor Jack McElroy, the plaintiff, was asked if he had any personal knowledge of deliberations taking place outside public view. He responded with this interesting timeline (PDF format), which is the basis of the complaint. Here's a sampling:

During the same recess, reporter Ferrar observed a gathering that included Commissioners Moore and Lambert, as well as Tramel. When Commissioner Schmid noticed the gathering. he said: "They’re trying to sneak in Richard Cate behind my back. They’re trying to swear in Richard Cate. They’re trying to get my vote out." A short while later, reporter Barker went to the area in front of the Small Assembly Room, where Judge Wheeler Rosenbalm, in his robes and carrying a Bible, stood near Richard Cate. Schmid, Lambert, Tramel and Cate were arguing. Rosenbalm was preparing to swear in Cate, although commissioners had agreed earlier to hold off on swearing in the new appointees until 2 p.m. "If you want to keep that spot in '08, you better not do this," Schmid yelled at Cate. Cate eventually replied angrily, "Don’t accuse me of that any more." Tramel told Schmid he was a "part-time" commissioner. "You’re never here for committee meetings,” he said. Schmid turned to Barker and said, "Let’s call a spade a spade. They’re wanting to get my vote out so they can get Lee Tramel in." Lambert angrily called Schmid a "peckerhead." Later, Schmid added, "This is typical of the way these people operate." Cate, who chose not to take the oath of office, said someone in the back of the Main Assembly Room had suggested he take the oath of office early. "I don’t even know who it was." Photographer Cary observed and photographed a portion of the gathering involving Schmid, Lambert and Cate.

The timeline also discusses the details of Jonathan Wimmer's claim that he was offered a deal by Lumpy Lambert if he would agree to be sworn in and vote for Tramel.

May 10 2007
07:58 am

In case you missed it (it wasn't mentioned in today's Knoxville News Sentinel), eleven Congressional Republicans went to the White House and told Bush and other top administration officials that he will no longer have the support of the GOP if the war goes on much longer.

Pundits are comparing the rather historic confrontation to Goldwater's famous meeting with Nixon that ended his presidency.

House Republican leader John Boehner attended the meeting, which was organized by Rep. Charles Dent of Pennsylvania and Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois representing a group of moderate Republicans.

In what was described as a "remarkably candid" and "blunt" meeting, Bush was told that the no longer has any credibility on the war, and that it is time for "candor" and "honesty." Here is the NBC News video report by Tim Russert.

Bush acknowledged that the war is causing political problems for the GOP and expressed concerns about upcoming elections.

One would think he heard that message loud and clear in Nov. 2006, but his actions since suggest otherwise. Pressure from Democrats in the new Congress, along with some Republicans who are wising up, seems to finally be working. This could be the beginning of the end, especially if Democrats can put together a veto-proof coalition.

What's frustrating is that it has to come down to politics. The fact that we were led to war based on a pack of lies, that we have damaged our reputation around the world, that we have seriously weakened our military, and that we have failed to shut down the terrorist network that attacked us are all irrelevant. It's the number of "R" seats in Congress at stake and the threat of a "D" in the White House that gets Bush's attention.

Whatever it takes to end this thing is OK by a majority of Americans at this point. It's time to declare victory and bring our troops home.

May 10 2007
06:02 am

Sunday's News Sentinel will feature part one of UT's Howard Baker Center report on the structure and functions of local government. The report will use mostly graphics to present an overview of the governments of Knox County, the City of Knoxville and the Town of Farragut. The second part of the study will be completed in mid-summer. It will be a report of best practices in government structure and functions in communities similar in size to ours. The reports are being prepared to support the Knox County One Question process. In addition to the Baker Center reports, information will be gathered from citizens in at least five public input sessions. The first session is Monday at Halls High School. To read an executive summary of the Baker Center plan of work and for a list of all public input sessions visit: (link...).

May 9 2007
09:43 pm

State, federal, and local authorities have pretty much abdicated their responsibility toward addressing the consequences of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, so several groups banded together and decided to approach the U.N. about it:

The groups from Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky asked the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, which is holding its annual session through Saturday, to shun coal in favor of policies promoting renewable energy and cuts in fossil fuel consumption.

The delegation told reporters outside the U.N. that coal extraction has destroyed more than a million acres (400,000 hectares) of forests, 500 mountains and 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of streams in recent years in the Appalachians.

Just one tiny example of the myriad consequences of this abhorrent practice:

Erica Urias of the group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth said she recently discovered that her 3-year-old daughter's bathwater has high levels of arsenic that had leached into local supplies from mining operations.

The consequences of mountaintop removal have now been featured as a special layer within Google Earth:

Look for "Appalachian Mountaintop Removal" under the "Global Awareness" folder of the "Layers" sidebar. You can take the site tour of a mountaintop removal operation, explore the featured mountains and affected communities marked with blue flag buttons, and use the slider bar to see high resolution images of these mountains before and after mountaintop removal. To view all the locations of the over 470 mountains that have been destroyed, please visit the full featured version of the Memorial on

There's more on the subject here and here.


Knox County Democrats
Truman Day Dinner and Rally

WHO: Democratic Party of Knox County, Host
WHAT: East Tennessee Truman Day Dinner & Political Rally
WHERE: Historic Jacob Building • Chilhowee Park & Exposition Center • 3301 Magnolia Avenue • East Knoxville
WHEN: Saturday, June 2, 2007 • Reception 6:00 p.m. • Dinner & Political Rally 7:00 p.m.

RECEPTION 6:00 PM -7:OO PM. Tickets are $100.00 each. Attendees receive two (2) tickets at the door to use at the open bar. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.

DINNER 7:00 PM. Tickets are $50 each. Tickets for the dinner may be purchased by table (10 tickets) or individually. The cost for a table is $450. Seating is limited.

SPEAKER: Honorable Philip Bredesen has been invited along with other special guests.

For more information, join our email list and to print a reservation form go to (link...)


fires befall nation...

Wildfires on both coasts and the Canadian border...
Major flooding in the MidWest...

...The drought and the Easter Freeze are also affecting crops and livestock...

Then to top it off, "Subtropical Storm Andrea" is causing a bit of a todo...

Yeehaw!!! Got your disaster supplies at the ready? What was it I was supposed to have ready anyway?

May 9 2007
11:36 am
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Workman, 53, was pronounced dead at 1:38 a.m. after a lethal cocktail of drugs was injected into his body as he lay strapped to a prison gurney at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

Workman’s final words were brief.

"I've prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ not to lay charge of my death to any man," Workman said.

About two minutes later, with his eyes closed as he gulped, somewhat nervously, Workman uttered his final words: "I commend my spirit into your hands Lord Jesus Christ."

He then turned his head slightly to the left and lay motionless, as an ashen color overtook his face.

May 9 2007
09:33 am

The Alcoa City Commission passed the amended Alcoa Animal Ordinance last night by a unanimous vote. It took a little longer than expected to get it on the agenda because lawyers had to rewrite some language to incorporate a few suggested changes. You can read more about that here.

We spoke with Alcoa Police Capt. Phillip Dunn, who is in charge of animal control and is a super nice guy who cares about his work with animals (and pet owners). We thanked him for listening to our concerns and incorporating changes to address them. We also thanked City Manager Mark Johnson for working with us to get this done.

Capt. Dunn also told us that they had already purchased the microchip scanners City Manager Mark Johnson had authorized, and they hope this will help keep some strays out of the shelters.

Capt. Dunn also said they are working with local veterinarians on a registration program that would let residents register their pets when they go to the vet for annual rabies vaccinations.

They are also working on a new brochure to give to all new residents explaining the animal control ordinances and registration requirements (which we did not know about), and hope to have this info on their new website soon. They also hope to allow for online renewal of registrations at some point.

We briefly discussed the new Smoky Mountain Animal Care shelter, a non-profit that will hopefully be taking over Blount County's shelter operations soon. (Read more about that here.) There are no plans at this time for the City of Alcoa to change their shelter arrangement with the City of Maryville. Alcoa city officials have been involved with the group, though, to help with planning.

P.S. In related news, the Mrs. is donating two dog poop stations to be installed at Springbrook Park. The stations have cleanup bag dispensers and waste receptacles. Blount Co. Parks and Recreation will take care of the installation, resupply, and maintenance. There is currently only one and it is at the parking lot. We'll be going over there next week with the parks guy to scout out locations for the new ones.


I was looking at the Knoxville News Sentinel business section this morning, and there's a photo of some guy speaking about health care. The caption says he is with Pitney Bowes. I'm thinking, what the hell do postage meters have to do with health care?

It turns out he is the "vice president of strategic initiatives" and he was speaking to a group of about 500 "benefits managers" at a health care forum in Downtown Knoxville yesterday.

VP of strategic initiatives? So apparently, managing the reliability and operational readiness of an interchangeable human resource unit while reducing maintenance costs and extending its service life is now a "strategic initiative."

Here's an example of how that works:

The average annual cost of care for a diabetic at Pitney Bowes is about $2,500. When an employee uses only $1,000 worth of care, it should be a clear indicator that the person isn't taking the appropriate steps to manage their disease.


Health risk assessments are an essential tool in identifying those factors, said Elaine Schnueringer, project manager for the Health Management Research Center at the University of Michigan.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that command and control of interchangeable human resource units by corporate benefactors should begin and end at the workplace and not extend into our personal lives?

What's amazing to me is that rugged free-market individualists oppose any government involvement in our health care system yet are content to allow corporate intrusion into the most private aspects of their lives. They are happy to let corporations extend control of their lives outside the workplace and spy on their behavior. They see no problem with the cost of health care driving up prices of everything from postage meters to automobiles and making American workers less competitive in the global market place.

Whatever. The answer is simple: Open up Medicare to everyone, with premiums on a sliding scale based on income and subsidized premiums for the poor (thus eliminating Medicaid in the process). There's a whole industry, though, that wouldn't like this, including corporate "benefit managers" one would presume.

May 9 2007
07:29 am
By: bizgrrl  shortURL

U.N.-Energy, a consortium of 20 U.N. agencies and programs, reports "bioenergy represents an "extraordinary opportunity" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it warned that "rapid growth in liquid biofuel production will make substantial demands on the world's land and water resources at a time when demand for both food and forest products is also rising rapidly."

Potential problems include: "Changes in the carbon content of soils and carbon stocks in forests and peat lands ", "large-scale monocropping could lead to significant biodiversity loss, soil erosion and nutrient leaching", "soaring palm oil demand has already led to the clearing of tropical forests in southeast Asia", "the diversion of food crops for fuel will increase food prices, putting a strain on the poor, as evidenced by the recent steep rise in maize and sugar prices", "many biofuel crops require the best land, lots of water and environment-damaging chemical fertilizers".


This NY Times story reveals what a lot of us already know. The pharmacuetical companies in this country are a smarmy set of snake-oil salesmen wearting three piece suits.

May 8 2007
04:23 pm

A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2005," says that while the number of citizens of all races stopped or searched by law enforcement has dropped since 2002, minorities are still more likely than whites to be searched, arrested, and/or have force used against them.



May 8 2007
11:15 am

this is taken, with permission, from the k2k list:

Sundown in the City- Civil Rights
Posted by: "Martin Pleasant"
Mon May 7, 2007 6:18 pm (PST)

"My name is Donald Land. I am a Green Party member and active in promoting the Green Party platform to as many people as I can. I had attended the Sundown concert last thursday night and after the Wailers finished their set, I took the opportunity to speak to people.

As I was having a conversation with a group of people, (3 women with 1 child, and 1 man), the women stated they were familiar with our local Greens, left saying they would return in a few minutes. The man, later identified as Tom Martin, stayed so we could speak about the Greens.

As we were conversing, A man in a yellow blazer approached us and told us to move on and left. Both of us looked down at the sidewalk and Tom said "Isn't this a public sidewalk?" I replied "Yes it is". We resumed our conversation.

Only a minute or two later, the man came back and said " I told you guys to move on". At that time, I said to Tom" Why don't we finish our conversation over here", pointing to a area in front of the stage, and started to move in that direction. When I did, the man stepped in between Tom and I, with Tom's back to me. Tom had not moved. When the man stepped in between us, is when I saw his police badge for the first time, it had been underneath the blazer.

When I recognized him to be a police officer, I stated to him that if this gentleman moves on, the people that he is with will not be able to find him if he is not here, as there were still dozens of people milling about. He made no reply to me, instead he turned to Tom's backside, and jumped on Tom with a headlock manuever, and took Tom to the sidewalk, HARD. I should also note that Tom was holding a pizza box with both hands.

Another police officer arrived at the scene, and I stated to him that what had just happened was not right, and this officer threatened to arrest me also if I did not step away and shut up, I was already at least 10 to 12 feet away, so I did step away a few more feet, and watched quietly from about 15 feet away as they led Tom out the gate, to a police car and searched him.

I then stepped out the gate to the street sidewalk and called out, " At least, tell what his name is", to which a uniformed officer replied, Tom Martin. I then waited for the women that he was with, who returned about 5 minutes later, after the police had put Tom in a police van and took him away."

Tom would like an opportunity to tell his story
Thank You

May 8 2007
10:51 am

In which terrorism is not terrorism but instead simply a law enforcement problem.

May 8 2007
10:07 am

The Knoxville News Sentinel weighs in, sort of, on the state-wide cable franchise bill being proposed by AT&T.

They cover all the concerns with the bill regarding local control and revenues, build-out requirements, threats to public "cable access" educational and government programming (PEG), and other consumer protection issues.

But there are a couple of curious remarks.

The editorial starts out by saying:

A bill making its way through the Legislature would allow communications giant AT&T to enter the cable television market in Tennessee under the argument that increased competition will result in reduced prices and better service.

They fail to mention that AT&T can already enter the cable television market in Tennessee any time they want, and in fact have been invited by more than one local government to submit a proposal. What are they waiting for?

The editorial closes by saying "It would be great to have a choice of TV providers." Yet earlier in the editorial they note that Comcast, Charter, and Knology already operate in the Knoxville market, generating millions in franchise fees for local governments. These companies were able to negotiate local cable franchises and operate them for years. (And that's not counting satellite providers, who don't pay franchise fees but do provide competition.) Why can't AT&T do the same? What's stopping them?

They mention the "competition" aspects of the bill more than once, and, judging from some of the comments about the editorial, AT&T's massive propaganda campaign has been successful in making this the central focus of the debate in the minds of consumers.

So will the bill increase competition? And what about the other effects? Who knows? But we can look to states where the bill has been passed. Texas is one of them. They have been operating under similar legislation for about two years now. What has happened there?

For one thing, Houston may lose it's public education and government television due to changes in the funding formula under the new statewide cable franchise law.

On the other hand, a survey of 800+ selected Texas residents in three markets, sponsored by a "cable competition" advocacy group, found that competition in these markets did reduce fees by as much as 25%. Other analysts note, however, that some of that competition came from satellite providers. Regardless, the loss of PEG programming is a small price to pay to save a few bucks on your monthly cable bill.

And according to a Texas Public Utility Commission 2007 report:

Cable television (CATV) and non-facilities based Internet Protocol (IP) providers are two relatively new competitors that provide customers with more choices for the provision of their telecommunications and broadband services. CATV telecommunications providers, at this point, are primarily offering service in the urban and suburban areas, as opposed to rural.

But this should come as no surprise. Just as Texas was adopting state-wide cable franchises, SBC (now AT&T) told industry analysts:

During a slide show for analysts, SBC said it planned to focus almost exclusively on affluent neighborhoods. SBC broke out its deployment plans by customer spending levels: It boasted that Lightspeed would be available to 90% of its "high-value" customers — those who spend $160 to $200 a month on telecom and entertainment services — and 70% of its "medium-value" customers, who spend $110 to $160 a month.

SBC noted that less than 5% of Lightspeed's deployment would be in "low-value" neighborhoods — places where people spend less than $110 a month. SBC's message: It would focus on high-income neighborhoods, at least initially, to turn a profit faster.

Regarding consumer protection, the Texas Public Utility Commission report says:

The Commission’s authority to resolve customer service complaints about cable and video providers operating under CFAs [Cable Franchise Agreements] is unclear. PURA 8 66.008 specifies that the Commission has no jurisdiction to process complaints in local markets where two or more non-satellite providers offer video service. However, in markets where the incumbent cable company has replaced an expiring municipal franchise with a new CFA, the municipality is no longer the franchise authority and it is unclear who has jurisdiction to process customer complaints. The Commission concluded at its April 13, 2006, Open Meeting that it does not possess clear authority to address these complaints.

At any rate, AT&T is spending hundreds of millions to "educate" consumers on the benefits of "increased competition" and hiring armies of lobbyists to push these bills through state legislatures. When they finally come up for a vote, they usually pass. Such will likely be the case in Tennessee, where fiercely "independent" free-market conservatives rule the roost.

It's ironic, though, that they will essentially give newcomer AT&T, which now controls most of the telecom industry in the South, a regulatory leg up over their established cable competitors who had to play by the rules on a level playing field to negotiate local franchises.

May 8 2007
09:56 am

Today there is another Animal Control Committee meeting.

So let's try to get up to date with where we are now on this Blount County issue.

~The county commission has approved a 350K loan to Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation to get the basic shelter built.

~The county is allowing this shelter to be placed on county land and in the end, the county will pretty much own the building and the land.

Animal Control enforcement duties for Blount County will still be provided by the County but the housing, care and adoption of these animals will be provided by the new shelter.

Much like the Young Williams model with some changes. For operation details check out the presentations at (link...)

At this point is sure seems like they are working on the details and here is where you all can help! This shelter and it's services are currently being targeted to Blount County's non-incorporated areas. That means if you live in Alcoa or Maryville and your doggie should happen to wander off and be picked up by the City, it won't be taken to the new shelter.

Lost pups, stray dogs and wandering cats have no idea if they are wandering in the City or in the County. For this reason alone you folks in the cities should pick up the phone, call city hall and say you want your city to join in with the new Animal Shelter! No way, no how will these cities change what they do now if the citizens don't speak out.

Animal Control duties can and should stay with the cities but the care and placement of those unwanted and misplaced animals can be done by this new shelter.

Pick up the phone.

Go to the meetings.

Raise a few bucks to help get this thing going.

In the end, your pup will thank you for it.

And so will the rest of us.

Animal Control Committee meeting
Tuesday, May 8, 2007, 5:00 p.m.
Room 430, Blount County Courthouse

May 8 2007
03:04 am
By: Elrod  shortURL

As Bob Novak says, with Fred Thompson there is much less than meets the eye. He's a desperation pick by conservative Republicans - especially in Tennessee - who don't like the army of panderers and philanderers among the current GOP top crop. He's one of a long line of "projection candidates" onto whom disaffected voters can project their own longings. Ironically, Thompson's greatest appeal is that he seems "authentic," unlike the others.

But one thing I find striking about the Fred phenomenon is the touchiness with which his supporters guard his aura of authenticity. It's as if his own life story can't stand on its own. Nothing reveals this more than defensiveness over the red pickup truck in the 1994 Senatorial election. By most accounts, it was the moment that jumpstarted his campaign. His supporters say he was simply jettisoning the highly scripted political theatrics expected of a Senatorial candidate; it was just "Fred being Fred." A sycophantic article from Frank Cagle claims that Thompson wasn't really comfortable until he could hold impromptu rallies in rural Sevier County. Never mind that 1994 was a banner Republican year and any Republican who railed against the Washington establishment was likely to draw a crowd in rural East Tennessee. And note the way Terry Frank mocks a Tennessean article that chides Thompson for his Washington insiderness. As if Thompson did not, in fact, spend most of his career in Washington. Hmm, a bit touchy, huh?

Well, Kevin Drum, who brilliantly commented that Thompson "has done nothing to distinguish himself this year except deliver a few vaguely Reaganesque pastiches in a nice baritone," has again nailed Thompson on his phony "let Fred be Fred" persona. Apparently, not only did Thompson lease the red pickup truck in his 1994 campaign, but he didn't even drive it around the state. According to Michelle Cottle, who wrote a 1996 article outlining a potential Thompson Presidential run, "My friend stands talking with her colleagues as the senator is driven away by a blond, all-American staffer. A few minutes later, my friend gets into her car to head home. As she pulls up to the stop sign at the parking lot exit, rolling up to the intersection is Senator Thompson, now behind the wheel of a sweet silver luxury sedan. He gives my friend a slight nod as he drives past. Turning onto the main road, my friend passes the school's small, side parking area. Lo and behold: There sits the abandoned red pickup, along with the all-American staffer." In other words, Thompson only rode the red pickup truck for the last couple hundred feet so all the Sevier County locals could be impressed. He then promptly returned to his luxury sedan. Was this Fred being Fred? Or Fred the Fraud?

May 7 2007
04:44 pm

The KNS reports that former backup quarterback Jim Bob Cooter has signed on as a UT graduate assistant coach, replacing Rick Clausen who left for an insurance job in Chicago.

May 7 2007
04:26 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Senate 2008 Guru is a relatively new blog that's tracking news about every 2008 U.S. Senate race. Looks pretty good.


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