Jun 14 2007
10:19 pm

Ruth Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, passed away today. Billy Graham, who so often has the right words at the right time, issued this statement:

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team. No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.

"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together. We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."

May God continue to bless the Graham family.

Jun 14 2007
05:50 pm
By: bizgrrl  shortURL

There are children living downtown! No, not under an overpass. In luxury condos!

(Update: in print, front page, above the fold!)

Jun 14 2007
01:33 pm

The KNS published findings from a "draft" audit of travel and auto allowances for five top officials in the Knox County Mayor's office, including Mayor Ragsdale. The audit was requested by Knox County Commission. A copy of the leaked "draft" audit is here (PDF format).

WBIR has an updated report, with the Mayor's response to earlier concerns expressed by County Commission and a statement regarding changes in travel policy. A copy of Ragsdale's memo to County Commission on these and other issues is here. WATE files this report.

We have not seen a response to the latest "draft" audit yet, but Ragsdale had already hired an auditor to audit his own department and to audit the Knox County auditors.

A couple of things.

The KNS does not have much credibility on any of this after their sensational front-page reporting of "expenses that totaled $715,537.51 over a period of less than three weeks" which turned out to be a giant red herring because it involved the Knox County credit card purchasing system and business as usual, with a few exceptions that have been explained and/or remedied by the Mayor's office. (Not to mention their reporting that the credit card controversy "dominated" the recent budget hearing, when eyewitnesses reported here that it was only the last few minutes of discussion at the end of a meeting that lasted several hours.)

Nor does the County Commission have much credibility on ethics issues after the Jan. 31st fiasco, rampant nepotism, etc., and their ongoing political hostility towards the Mayor's office that interferes with conducting the county's business.

And as noted in comments below, the language of the audit, and the curious timing of the "leak" of a "draft" report to the media, raise questions about the political motivations and/or influence in the audit department (which they conveniently and preemptively deny in the "draft" audit report itself.)

But there does appear to be a legitimate question regarding travel allowances ("disguised compensation" as the leaked "draft" audit calls it), especially for employees who are issued county vehicles. (Simple test: where does the $20K "travel allowance" show up on Ragsdale's tax return?)

Perhaps County Commission's travel allowances should be scrutinized, too, along with commissioners' discretionary funds that they recently wanted to increase to nearly $1 million.

And allowable travel and entertainment expenses and possible improper personal use of county purchasing cards are rightly under the microscope, although Mayor Ragsdale says he's taking steps to address those concerns.

Clearly there is a meltdown in Knox County government between County Commission and the Administration which has been brewing for a long time. Sadly, everybody comes out a loser, especially Knox County voters and taxpayers. And it will probably get worse before it gets any better and Knox County government gets back to taking care of the county's business.

Jun 13 2007
09:09 pm
By: Sandra Clark  shortURL

Knox County commissioners Frank Leuthold and Craig Leuthold have just "sunshined" Father's Day.

They ate lunch today at Edison Park. The media were invited.


Ugh. I get the intention and the political necessity of the sentiment. But is this really what sells?

I think people are hungry for a different kind of politics – the kind of politics based on the ideals this country was founded upon. The idea that we are all connected as one people. That we all have a stake in one another. That there’s room for pro-lifers and pro-choicers, Evangelicals and atheists, Democrats and Republicans and everyone in between, in this project of American renewal.

There's no way I could deliver that line without gagging. Or perhaps bursting out laughing at "stake in one another." That's why I'm a lowly wage slave, I guess.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Jun 13 2007
04:26 pm

"Education Week" has recently published their new "Diplomas Count 2007" report. Lots of information for the entire country with the ability to drill-down to the school district level using the "Mapping Tool".

The newest graduation rate data is for 2004 with comparisons to the previous nine years.

The Knox County 2004 High School Graduation Rate (according to this report) is 82.8%. This is a pretty big jump from previous years (68.1, 71.2, 55.3, 59.9, 69.6, 65.8, 64.3, 63.1, 66.6).

Maryville City Schools reports 81.1% graduation rate for 2004. Previous years for Maryville City are consistently better than Knox County, with the exception of 2002 (80.2, 70.6, 76.2, 63.5, 77.1, N/A, 66.1, 78.7, 75.5).

Blount County reports an elevated graduation rate for 2004, 84.4%. However, Blount County appears quite inconsistent in the past ten years (72.8, 59.0, 64.3, 44.2, 75.4, N/A, 62.0, 64.3, 62.6).

City of Alcoa appears to be having a real problem with graduating their seniors with a 2004 rate of 55.5%. Except for two years (2001 and 2002), the City of Alcoa consistently has very low graduation rates (43.1, 77.4, 81.3, N/A, N/A, N/A, 42.7, 58.1, 65.6).

And just one more to review the wide discrepancies in East TN high school graduation rates, Loudon County Schools is reporting a 2004 graduation rate of 36.6%. This is the second worst year for Loudon County in the ten year reporting period. In 1999 Loudon County reported a graduation rate of 30.5%. Similar to the City of Alcoa, Loudon County is pretty consistent in their low graduation rates (63.5, 44.1, 54.3, N/A, 30.5, N/A, 52.0, 52.6, 80.0).

Musing the information.

Why the big jump for Knox County?

Why do the City of Alcoa and Loudon County schools do so poorly? Except for being in East TN, I don't think the two have that much in common. The City of Alcoa is more urban (if you can call it that) and has a more diverse population than Loudon County. I wonder if it is as simple as how they do the calculations.

Is your school system doing a good job of graduating its high school students?

Jun 13 2007
01:14 pm

Mayor Ragsdale responds to Commissioner Pinkston's questions about county credit card spending in this letter (PDF format).

Jun 13 2007
12:29 pm

Serious drought conditions continue throughout the South. The National Weather Service has issued the following statement for East Tennessee:





The report also indicates record low water tables, soil moisture, and stream flows. It also says that prolonged periods of rain and/or tropical storm activity and a wet summer, fall, and winter are needed to recover from a long term drought, but this is not expected. Citizens are urged to conserve water.

Here is a snapshot of rainfall in Knoxville (TYS) since 2000 (source):

The average rainfall for May 2000-2006 was 4.68 inches. May 2007 rainfall was 1.48 inches. The average YTD rainfall for May 2000-2006 was 22.29 inches. May YTD rainfall was 12.81 inches.

The National Weather Service also notes the following:

• Knoxville received 1.48 inches of rain in May, which was 3.20 inches below normal. It ranked as the 13th driest May on record at Knoxville. Measurable rainfall occurred on only five days, and only one of those days had more than one-quarter of an inch of rainfall. The heaviest rain fell on the 5th when 1.20 inches of rain was recorded, which accounted for nearly all of the rain for the entire month. The driest May out of 137 years at Knoxville was back in 1941, when only 0.71 inches was recorded.

• The monthly average temperature at Knoxville was 70.0 degrees, which was 4.0 degrees above normal. It ranked as the 23rd warmest May on record at Knoxville. The warmest May at Knoxville was back in 1962, when the average temperature was 74.0 degrees.

• Knoxville received a total of only 9.15 inches of rain this spring, which was 4.69 inches below normal. It ranked as the 23rd driest spring on record at Knoxville. The driest spring at Knoxville was back in 1925, when only 5.80 inches was recorded.

• The average seasonal temperature at Knoxville this spring was 61.0 degrees, which was 3.1 degrees above normal. It tied with 1974 as the 10th warmest spring on record at Knoxville. The warmest spring at Knoxville was back in 1974, when the average temperature was 62.6 degrees.

Jun 13 2007
08:31 am
By: WhitesCreek  shortURL

And you folks think?

Q: Who deserves the blame for the health care mess: the US government, the big drug companies or something else?

"It’s the system itself. For the most part, the system is based on profits and greed. When it comes to people’s health, profit should be nowhere involved. If anyone suggested that, say, the school system should be making a profit, they’d be looked at as if they were from Mars. Nobody would ever say the city water department should be turning a profit—without water you don’t live. Health care should be the same way, and it is that way in other countries. "

...Michael Moore

I think this idea would have made middle class the wealth of the Frist Family and Governor Bredesen. If I were King, I would make it so.

Jun 12 2007
08:28 pm

My husband, whom I think I've mentioned is Republican, sometimes gets junk mail that entertains me like few other diversions. I had hilarious fun with the "Free My Ride" piece that landed in the mailbox today!

Pictured on the front is a humongous fifth wheel motor home, replete with two of those "bump-out" rooms fully extended, tethered to an equally humongous pick-up truck. The caption reads "Imagine hauling this with a 4-cylinder engine." I have difficulty, as I prefer camping in a tent and being awakened by the birds when it's barely light...

Anyway, inside the piece, the sender urges me (well, my husband) to call our senator *today* to oppose "Extreme New Mileage Regulations," and offers me (well, my husband) a toll-free number to do so.

The attached postage-paid reply card, compliments of Free My Ride, suggests we (well, my husband) send this garbled message to Congress: "I know best what type of vehicle meets me and my family's (sic) needs."

How "extreme" is this Congressional proposal? A glance at the related website indicates that Free My Ride's concern is HR 1506, the Fuel Economy Act, proposed by Rep. Ed Markey (D) and Rep. Todd Platts (R). It imposes a 35 mpg fuel efficiency requirement on the auto industry, to include trucks and SUV's. The present standard, I learned, distinguishes between cars and trucks/SUVs, imposing a standard of just 21.5 mpg on this latter group.

I won't share the toll-free number, because just punching in 1 or 2 to answer the poll wasn't much of a whoop. I *was* able to mark up that reply card, tucked in my purse now, to my satisfaction, and I got to "Contact Them" at the website, too (almost as fun as Bill Dunn's mail surveys). You may want to do the same at (link...).

Oh...and if you drop by, be sure to look at the National Review link to Greg Kaza's article. He's concerned that this measure could lead to poverty, because people who don't have cars probably won't be considered for the jobs they apply for. Huh?

Jun 12 2007
05:54 pm

And we're pissed!

AP reporting, "U.S.-Iraqi forces raid lollipop factory".

Jun 12 2007
02:43 pm

I've got a new post up at Facing South about Florida's solar power incentives program and some other info about solar PV systems that you might find interesting.

Jun 12 2007
02:39 pm

I recently received a press release regarding an upcoming 43rd Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service and Conference and Caravan for Justice. You can read all about the event here.

I wasn't familiar with the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, but their website is an amazing historical archive of information about the civil rights movement. From their mission statement:

Our purpose is to make sure that there is at least one place where the Movement story is told by those who actually lived it. We want to set the record straight. Without the courage, determination, and activity of hundreds of thousands of men and women of all ages in cities, towns, and hamlets across the South there would have been no Civil Rights Movement, no famous leaders, no court rulings, no new laws, and no change.

In addition to documenting the Southern Freedom Movement by telling it like it was and testifying to what we did and what it meant to us, the website is also a place to begin renewing the ties that once bound us together in a beloved community, a place for finding lost friends, and a tool for helping fellow veterans in need. And it is a living memorial for our fallen comrades.

The maintain a "roll call" of civil rights movement participants from all over who register at the site and provide background on their involvement. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions section where members answer questions by relating their own experiences.

The website has an abundance of resources including an extensive bibliography, a library of links to online civil rights resources, and lots more. The fascinating personal accounts are at times sad and even terrifying, but all are moving and uplifting. This is a great resource for anyone researching the 1960s Civil Rights Movement or who is just interested in learning more about it.

(Originally posted at Facing South)

Jun 12 2007
01:09 pm
By: StaceyDiamond  shortURL

The Sentinel has come out in support of building a new UC today. I really question the need for more "student meeting space". The Greek groups have their own buildings and the new Baker Center and remodeled alumni auditorium are good for speakers with a big draw. When I was in student clubs 4 years ago there was no trouble at all getting a room to meet in the UC or in empty classrooms at night. The only thing I could see coming up is a need for more cafeteria space with the bigger freshman classes coming. But the folks at Denark may be needing a project.

Jun 12 2007
11:41 am

The White House* has issued this short address from the President of the United States regarding immigration reform.

Please pay attention you there in the back.

* That's .org, not .gov

Jun 12 2007
11:32 am

Watch out for the sturgeon!

Boaters on Florida's Suwannee River are being attacked. This past weekend a woman was knocked unconscience by a "leaping sturgeon". Back in April another woman had "serious injuries" after being hit by a sturgeon while riding a personal watercraft.

And now, since we in Tennessee are missing all of the fun, a partnership including the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga and TWRA are re-introducing sturgeon to East Tennessee.

"With luck and a clean river some of these magnificent fish could grow to six feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds."

I can't wait!?!!??

Jun 12 2007
07:47 am

The Maryville Daily Times reported on an attempted robbery at the Richy Kreme donut store in Eagleton Village. The suspect got away, but the Sheriff's Office released the following:

The woman then left the shop and fled in a 1993 gray Toyota, traveling toward Maryville on East Broadway.

O’Briant said the tag number on the vehicle was 340PQH.

The woman was described as white, about 5 feet tall, with brown hair.

Anyone with information about the attempted robbery should call the Blount County Sheriff’s Office crime information hot line at 273-5200.

How much more information do they need? Maybe they'd like someone to go ahead and arrest the suspect and bring her on down to the lockup for them?

(Memo to would-be robbers: Donut shops should be pretty far down on your list of targets.)


Working with Miksang

If you would like to see selected examples of Miksang and links to Miksang sites, please go here.

June 12, 2007

Dear Carole Ann,

A traditional art form has been greatly facilitated by the advent of the digital camera. The art of Miksang was begun as a meditational tool by Shambhala Buddhists, but it has implications for painters and other creative people. The idea is to find joy and awareness by attending to the minor and seemingly insignificant--the colours, patterns and textures that exist in the close-up world. Miksang is a Tibetan word that means "good eye." Shambhalas think widespread use might lead to more compassionate and enlightened societies.

Artists have been going in this direction for centuries. Leonardo recommended seeing beauty and finding motifs in the texture of walls. You might remember several years ago I demonstrated the use of a special camera set-up, and encouraged the practice of close-up looking and capturing. We've included links to this and examples of Miksang art in the current clickback. See URL below.

These days Buddhist instructors in several countries are handing digital cameras to kids. Children seem to take to it faster than adults and, according to some, get better results. Instructors need to be certified by the Toronto-based "Miksang Society for Contemplative Photography." Part of the Miksang philosophy is that subjects must be found and collected "as is" and not moved or adjusted to improve composition. Subjects can be man-made or from the natural world.

What value does Miksang have for creative folks? Obviously, Miksang makes for pause, reflection and quiet centering. By increasing awareness, one builds a feeling of wonder and kinship with the overlooked. But its real value is in seeing design and the subtlety of colour. To the discriminating eye the macro world is a minor symphony. Looking through a viewfinder and making decisions hone the ability to find the larger compositions. It's all about the acquired skills of looking and seeing. Buddhist or not, this art can be performed at any time and any place.

Digital photography has been a bit of a shock for the formerly film-based who thought of cost every time they pressed the shutter. Digitals are essentially "free" until you do something with them. The act of capture becomes like a prayer--free for the asking. Miksang praises the world of small.

Best regards,


PS: "To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour." (William Blake)

Esoterica: A valuable exercise is to select a small area such as the corner of a garden, a children's playground or even a traffic island. Any inconsequential area will do. Most digital cameras have an icon (usually a flower) that sets the camera for fast close-up focus. Take CU's of everything you can find--from dew drops to bottle tops. Assess the design of each shot and frame accordingly. You can put hundreds into the camera in half an hour. Before you edit out your "failures," load them into your computer and give yourself a slide show. Don't be judgmental. Let it all dissolve by at one or two second intervals. You will be taken away, Zen-like, to a world of amazing detail, colour and design.

Jun 11 2007
07:12 pm
By: airrn  shortURL

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