Jan 17 2007
11:17 pm

There's an episode of "Friends" when Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) is talking to a pretty girl, gets nervous, and has to think of something to say. What comes out of his mouth is something to the effect of "So... you know that natural gas smell? That's not really the gas. Natural gas is odorless. The gas company puts that smell in the gas so you can smell it if it leaks."

This story will probably be about as exciting as that. Tonight I was outside playing with Katie. Melissa comes out and we talk a little, and after a few minutes we both notice a funny smell. Like rotten eggs. We decide we should call the gas company, just in case there's a gas leak in the neighborhood.

The Blount County Fire Department comes out shortly. I show them where the gas meter is and they check it with an electronic sniffer. They check the furnace and water heater. They check the LP gas BBQ grill. They check in the spot where Melissa and I were standing when we smelled the natural gas odor. Nothing.

Remember what Ross taught us all about natural gas? It's odorless. The gas company adds that smell.

The fireman told me something interesting, and the Atmos Energy person who came out later confirmed it. There's an 18 inch Duke Energy gas main going through Blount County. The gas in the main line is odorless. The odor is added at local Atmos natural gas pumping stations, and there's a pumping station at the far end of the next street. Sometimes the odor that's injected into the gas escapes. A few weeks ago four houses on that street reported natural gas odor. That's what we smelled earlier, and as the wind shifted we couldn't smell it anymore. Fascinating, huh?

Jan 17 2007
10:17 pm

Network news is abuzz about reductions in cancer deaths in the last few years. According to ABC's evening news,

The statistics were released a few days early so that President George W. Bush could comment on them while touring the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

"I'm pleased that we're funding cancer research. We're up about 25 percent or 26 percent since 2001," Bush said.

ABC also commented that the increased funding in 2001 was actually the result of an initiative late in the Clinton administration and cancer researchers paint a different picture of Bush and Co. generosity.

Jan 17 2007
01:01 pm

Brittney over at Nashville is Talking has a map you should see. It is comical in many ways.

Jan 17 2007
12:49 pm

So, I notice the "nonprofit Tennessee Wildlife Federation" is pushing the right-to-hunt Constitional amendment again.

Sigh. Sure wish we had a Democratic infrastructure that would recognize the constant stream of right-wing-social-issue Constitutional amendments as the political ploy it is: a blatant move to push conservative Republican turnout every time there's a statewide election. "Animal rights activists" will not and cannot push to outlaw hunting in Tennessee, especially since every statewide candidate for office in Tennessee falls all over himself to produce TV commercials showing him dressed in camouflage and ready to go play Great White Hunter.

But nooooo. Every Democrat in the Tennessee legislature will vote to support this thing, and anyone who writes them to oppose it will be characterized as some lefty lunatic. Sorta like the 100% effective move the GOP used to push the 2006 gay marriage amendment [also supported overwhelmingly by Dems in the state legislature...the vote to put it on the ballot was 88 to 7 in the House], which many folks think cost Harold Ford a Senate seat.

I swear, a lot of the time I think we get what we deserve in this state. Too bad little kids and other folks without the power to force any change have to suffer along with those who put jackasses in office.

Jan 17 2007
12:20 pm
By: Mark Harmon  shortURL

Commissioners Hammond, Harmon, Smith, and Pinkston, as well as Law Director Owings and Knology and Charter representatives, were present for the Cable Committee meeting. Comcast, Charter, and Knology appear to be current on their franchise fee payments. The franchise agreement with Knology expires in 2010. Comcast and Charter are month-to-month, negotiations still in progress.

An attorney named Tillman Lay is assisting the Law Director with those negotiations. He was on speaker phone. He sees progress with Comcast, but the stumbling block is that Comcast wants a "walk away" provision from its pledges if those obligations are not shared by phone companies allowed by state (or presumably the federal government) in the cable TV business. Lay and I agreed the "walk away" provision was a bad idea. Lay believed progress with Comcast will push Charter toward agreement.

We got into the slow build problem, but in the absence of quorum it was largely a discussion of the proper combination of carrot and stick to nudge Knology along without putting it out of business. Knology pledged to Commissioner Smith a coverage map, but declined to give a subscriber count. I will provide to Councilman Rob Frost, who quite properly is a critic of that slow build, Lay's contact information for further pressing on this matter.

On the plus side, Knology insists it wants to provide our access channels but is having conduit problems getting into the Andrew Johnson building to get the signals. Comcast hasn't been assisting, and KUB has been slow, but now appears to be moving. I volunteered to assist Knology in any calls to push this matter along faster.

I was appointed as the Commission's representative on Community Television's board. CTV's David Vogel was there, and was amenable to putting Finance and Intergovernmental committees on the channel once he resolved some staffing matters.

We also had a brief discussion on net neutrality. I argued for it; Lay mentioned the political reality that the phone and cable companies are going to be pushing their side, and are tough to beat on Capitol Hill.

--Mark Harmon


The Sunday NYT had an interesting article about the nation's largest employers building health clinics at their factories and offices:

Today a new wave of clinics is opening, driven largely by a motive that was less of a factor in the past: employers’ desires to reduce their health insurance premiums by taking care of workers before they need to see outside doctors. More than 100 of the nation’s 1,000 largest employers now offer on-site primary care or preventive health services — a number forecast to exceed 250 by the end of the year, according to David Beech, a health benefits consultant.

Corporate America’s new in-house medical offices go well beyond traditional occupational health clinics that hundreds of factories have long maintained for job-related injuries and worker’s compensation cases. Employees can now stop by for check-ups, allergy and flu shots, pregnancy tests or routine monitoring for chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma.

When prescription drugs are required, some employers arrange for the pills to be delivered the next day at the office or plant, while others even maintain fully stocked pharmacies.

The article mentions Toyota, Sprint Nextel, Florida Power and Light, Credit Suisse and Pepsi as some of the high-profile companies providing health clinics.

I suppose this was inevitable, but not because they are interested in employee health beyond workers showing up for work. As the article states, they are doing it to control costs.

The question is, how can a car manufacturer or a soft drink bottler provide less expensive health care than the existing system we have in place, which everyone hails as the greatest system in the world? I guess our system isn't so great after all.

But the bottom line is the bottom line. When shareholder's interests take priority over all other considerations, will workers receive the same quality of health care they would get from their family doctor or a clinic run by the local hospital or health department?

This illustrates again how twisted and perverted our system of health care delivery has become. Employers have no business in the business of health care. There are issues with privacy, portability, employability, family care, continuity of care, and more, all revolving around insurance company dictates and profits instead of a person's abilities, experience, or individual best interests. It has always been baffling to me how we got to this point.


*In case you don't remember it, the title of this post is a line from the classic "You have meddled in the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale" scene in the 1976 movie Network. The movie was very prophetic. Before that, Tennessee Ernie Ford's 1946 song Sixteen Tons and the line "Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store" was about coal miners, but it seems we have come full circle.

I once worked for a guy who decided to provide "free lunch" for all employees. It was a mandatory program. He openly stated that the purpose was to keep people at their desks. Because, as you know, there's no such thing as "free lunch."

Many see such amenities as lunch, day care centers, laundry and dry-cleaning pickup and drop-off, gyms, and now health care clinics as "benefits". They are. They are benefits to shareholders provided by paternalistic corporations seeking to control every aspect of your life to maximize profits. A better benefit would be a fair wage and a functioning, affordable health care system and free personal time to spend with family and on leisure and personal development.

I am reminded of a philosophy once shared by an associate. He said "I work all week, I get paid on Friday, and we're even. On Monday morning we start all over again." I tend to agree with that philosophy. That's all anyone should want or expect from an employer.

Jan 17 2007
10:50 am

Tennessee Election Coordinator Brook Thompson sent Knox County Administrator of Elections Greg Mackay a letter stating:

[T]he Knox County Elections Commission .. cannot conduct a special election to fill these county vacancies. Rather, the election commission shall place these county offices on the regular August 7, 2008 election ballot. If the county primary boards so choose, either or both may timely call for a primary for any or all of these offices to be held with the February Presidential Preference Primary or in May.

According to Thompson, this is what is required by the Tennessee Constitution.

We were curious what a special election would cost the taxpayers of Knox County. Greg said a full special election would cost about $275,000. He wasn't sure how much a non-binding referendum as proposed by Commissioner Mark Harmon would cost, but presumably it would be less.

The Knoxville News Sentinel has more, including a report on the process proposed by Commission Chairman Scott Moore, the proposal by Commissioner Phil Guthe to ask the State Legislature for authority to hold a special election, and Commissioner Harmon's compromise proposal.

Jan 17 2007
10:13 am

YouTube Recipe for posting Video’s

From Number9

You will need:

Computer Hardware: ATI, Turtle Beach, or Pinnacle USB (Universal Serial Bus) or internal PCI capture hardware device and software (go to CompUSA, or Office Depot)
Read requirements on side on box for Computer specs and Operating System
Install as to manufacturers instructions

Input Source: Cable TV, VCR, Video Recorder, TV, DVR, TIVO, IPOD, Cell Phone, Digital Camera, or Computer

A YouTube ((link...)) account with Username and Password

Mixing Instructions:

You will set your recording software like Windows Movie Maker to a video setting of 340 X 240 resolution.

On your computer you will record the input from your preferred source to a file on the Computer.

You will login to your YouTube account and upload your video. You have a ten minute time limit and a 100 MB file size.

Post your YouTube video on a popular Blog or Blab like to let everyone know it is ready and where to find it. You can also use email to send a link to your friends.

You can learn more here at

Jan 17 2007
09:34 am

Cockfighting arrests in Middle Tennessee
DOWELLTOWN, TENN. (AP) -- Authorities in DeKalb County say they have broken up a cockfighting ring where thousands of dollars were being bet.
Police said they arrested ten men Saturday night, and among those watching the birds fight to near death were a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old.


Jan 17 2007
08:09 am

Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain said the swastika had been a symbol of peace for thousands of years before the Nazis adopted it.

He said a ban on the symbol would discriminate against Hindus.
The group said banning the swastika was equivalent to banning the cross simply because the Ku Klux Klan had used burning crosses.

Not sure I can agree with the cross/swastika comparison.

Jan 17 2007
07:44 am

Toyota's success in manufacturing and selling hybrid vehicles is losing an incentive. There is a 60,000 hybrid automobile limit for a single manufacturer. Consumer's beware, the tax credit is now half what it originally was for any Toyota hybrid and will gradually disappear by October 1, 2007. This does not yet affect any other automobile manufacturer, since no other has sold more than 40,000 hybrids.

Jan 16 2007
07:01 pm

Knox Co. Commissioner Mark Harmon mentions in his post below that the Cable TV committee will meet tomorrow, Wednesday the 17th at 8:30 a.m. in Room 640 of City County Bldg. Mark is the vice-chair and asks for your input on any Cable TV related issues at

He says one of the things they may discuss is "incomplete and behind-schedule builds (especially Knology)."

From a recent Knoxville News Sentinel article:

[City Councilman Rob] Frost said he has repeatedly asked Knology to furnish a map of its current service area, one that Feehan has since shown to City Council members and the mayor's office privately.

Feehan declined to release it publicly, calling it "extremely competitive, sensitive information." Feehan also refused to provide an exact number of local subscribers.

Consequently, the councilman requested a map from the Knoxville Utilities Board. Based on public records of all KUB utility poles in the city where Knology has attached its infrastructure, the map indicates that Knology's build-out is barely one-third complete and only covers parts of North and West Knoxville.

According to the article, Knology says the map is incomplete because they also use some BellSouth poles and have some underground lines that don't show up on KUB's map.

Regardless, one might conclude from looking at the map that Knology is "cherry picking" and not providing equal coverage in South and East Knoxville. It seems like they ought to have to explain that.

Number9 also asks in comments below whether Knology carries the local government and cable access channels, and whether they should be (or are) required to.


Many questions still exist about the new proposed Transit Center for the City of Knoxville. After spending 3.1 million dollars to select the site there are now complaints from the business owner.


KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The owner of American Accessories International on Church Avenue is upset he was never told by the city that his land could be taken for the new KAT bus transit center. Now, he's denying access to the property.

6 News obtained a letter from city Law Director Morris Kizer, asking for access to the company's land.

The city wants to do an environmental assessment; a foundation evaluation, with the need to do up to 10 core drillings of the property; an archaeological survey, and an inspection of the exterior and interior by a city real estate appraiser.

But in a letter of his own, American Accessories International owner Eric Zeanah told Mayor Bill Haslam he thinks the city will only offer a portion of what his property is worth.

Zeanah wrote, "We are reluctant to approve access when your office will not provide us with a plan that involves American Accessories International or addresses the potential gap."


The Intergovernmental and Finance Committees met this morning. I serve on Intergovernmental. All our scheduled business (including adoption of an ethics code and requesting opening of the parking garage) was put on the consent agenda and passed. The remaining time was spent on two motions regarding replacement of the term-limited office holders.

Read more after the jump...


Jan 16 2007
05:14 pm

Bush is forcing certain Federal prosecutors to resign and replacing them without Congressional oversight. In some cases the Prosecutors are involved with investigations of Administration associates. And in one instance a Prosecutor was replaced by an aide to Karl Rove whose job was opposition research on Al Gore.

This is scary!

Jan 16 2007
12:37 pm

6,932 voted in the '06 county democratic primary..if you are going to run in the '08 democratic county primary..1.RIGHT NOW..i would get a list of those that vote in the '06 district,if you plan to run for commission, or county wide if you plan run county wide...these are the yellow dogs..& 90% of them will vote in '08..start calling them & ask 'em for a vote & a yard sign & a contribution...2.this summer,get the '06 state democratic primary list & subtract the '06 democratic county primary list(14,800-6932=7868),start calling them askin for a vote & a yard sign & a contribution 3.this fall,get the '04 democratic presidential primary list..subtract your '06 primary list(24,000-14,800=9200),see if those folks voted in the '06 november general..then ask 'em for a vote & a yard sign & 10 bucks.I would start puttin up yard signs LABOR DAY.

Jan 16 2007
12:36 pm

There was an Intergovernmental Committee meeting this morning at which several proposals were introduced. Watch Channels 6 and 10 at noon for their reports and interviews.

Word has it that Mark Harmon introduced an innovative proposal that would allow residents to vote on the replacements Commissioners, Sheriff, and others.

Perhaps Dr. Harmon will post to Knoxviews and let us see the proposal?


The irony is astounding. Anybody who knows Les Jones or who has looked at his blog knows that he has been active in helping Johnia Berry's family find her killer.

Yesterday, a Knox County Sheriff's investigator showed up at his house based on a "tip" that Les resembled a police sketch of the killer (which is crazy). Read all about it here.

Michael Silence makes the point that law enforcement can't assume anything and that they have to run down every lead. It's hard to imagine, though, that they didn't know who Les Jones was or that he, along with the Berry family, have at times been critical of the Knox Co. Sheriff's handling of the case.

Stuff like this makes me once again wonder why anybody wants to run a website that discusses controversial issues.


This is purely a functional observation of shopping in Knoxville, of the design of Turkey Creek, and of the design of shoppertainment areas and parking lots in general. Please apply at will to the discussion of appropriate asphalt for the South Waterfront.

I live off Broadway in the 4G/ONK area. couple of weeks ago, I saw a sales flyer for a $99 brown leather office chair from Office Max. Went east to "Knoxville Center" and parked in a vast oasis of largely empty asphalt. They were out of stock, but politely looked in inventory and found one remaining at the Turkey Creek store.

Driving distance 21.2 miles to another vast oasis of asphalt full of very short-tempered drivers.

With New Years sales going on, the parking lot at Office Max Turkey Creek was pretty full. I parked in front of Office Max, got my chair, loaded it in the buggy, took it to my truck. No cart returns. Walked back to Office Max returned the cart. Got the "pissed off accelerated drive around" by a large SUV. They wanted a parking space I was walking past. My apologies to that driver for not having longer legs that could walk as fast as their SUV.

I then walked to Super Target to get a side table. No table. Leaving Target, a driver ignored the pedestrian painted stripes and zoomed past me (which means that pedestrians have the right of way, btw) although, not being a militant pedestrian, I try hard to make eye contact with drivers, yield the right of way, be polite, smile, etc.

Anyway, I then walked back to truck in front of Office Max.

I decided to DRIVE to Super Walmart, parking equidistantly between Walmart and the outparcel Chick-Fil-A. (my lunch plan.) Got table at Walmart, no drive by incidents this time, loaded the table in the truck, and walked to Chick Fil A, (through the drive through lane to get to their "sidewalk." Got honked at (maybe they thought I was a homeless person? who would walk?)

my only point: Turkey Creek could have been designed so much better. It could have been designed as a community but it wasn't. The goal was traffic clogged, destination shoppertainment.

Buying a chair and a table should be relatively pain free, and pleasant. It wasn't. From an objective, function point analysis of moving person, vehicle, and purchases from point A to B to C, it was dysfunctional.

There are some nice shops that would be fun to visit, but it's just not worth it, and I shouldn't have to drive to each store located within the same shopping center. If my son were with me, I would, purely for safety from some of the aggressive drivers.

I'm sure I did it all wrong, it's my fault, I just don't understand, but next time, I'm ordering online and paying shipping.

Turkey Creek could have been more like Gerber Village in Asheville, where they tore down the Gerber Baby Food plant and built this:

From SmartGrowth News:
Asheville's ''Gerber Village:'' No Cars Required

''Gerber Village could be called the 'Anti-Atlanta','' says The Asheville Citizen-Times in an editorial about this $150 million project for the 38-acre south Asheville site of the former Gerber baby food factory, where in three to five years about 1,500 residents will find ''almost every amenity without involving an automobile.''

The site's ''urban village'' zoning district, created by the Asheville City Council under its Unified Development Ordinance ''to encourage smart growth,'' the editorial says, is ''a far better fit than the Wal-Mart Supercenter'' that had been discussed as a possibility.

South Miami's Gulfside Development Co. expects to break ground this summer, planning a total of 230,000 square feet of retail and office space, with its first phase construction completed next spring, and 516 to 616 condominiums.

''Once you're here, everything you need is going to be readily available,'' stresses Gulfside Director of Development Jose Suarez-Marill.

Glad to see similar examples of downtown-like urban villages in Buncombe County, the daily mentions Eastwood Village, Cheshire and Biltmore Lake, concluding, ''In-fill development of vacant land, an increase in the city and county tax base and minimal traffic impact is indeed 'smart growth' and a welcome addition to the landscape.'' -- The Asheville Citizen-Times 5/28/2004


Jan 16 2007
10:53 am

KNS story here.

Done by Herb Moncier and, get this, it targets Hutchison. Shocking, I know.


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