Everyone talks about Latinos coming into America and what a negative effect that has on our life, but hardly anyone cares that thousands of rich Americans are retiring or having dual residences in countries like Mexico or Costa Rica. It's easy to believe the presence of so many rich Americans might be all positive, but in my travels I've observed a few things that are not so wonderful about the large American migration to Latin America.

Americans have invested heavily in speculative land deals in Costa Rica and Mexico. They hire locals or travelling illegals from other states like Nicaraguans who will work for even less than native Costa Ricans. They build villas and then hire people who get paid very litte money to be little more than house slaves.

Wherever consumer-oriented Americans go, Wal-Mart type stores are sure to follow. It makes me sad to see warehouse size buildings filled with appliances, steroes and plasma television sets that the underpaid locals can ill afford. The teasing possiblity of more and more makes some greedy people turn to illegal means in order to buy these things. I never checked to see if someone was extending these people credit, but if they were, it would most likely mean many illiterate people would be making deals based on contracts they might not be able to read.

Mexico used to have laws preventing foriegners from buying oceanfront property, but it looks like people have found ways of getting around that by hiring local front-men to help them make purchases.

Years ago I lived in Mexico in Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan. It was a tiny fishing village that served as the ferry landing over to Cozumel. It only had one hotel because few tourists stayed there. They all raced over to Cozumel because of the many nice hotels there and a lot of tourist attractions. My daughter recently went to that area on vacation and she said it was built up with a lot shops, many condos, and was now known as part of "the Mexican Riveria". I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the many fishermen or farmers who lived in that area before.

I imagined they went farther South to the little towns between Playa and Chetumal where there were fewer tourists and housing was cheap or if you didn't mind living like I did in a native hut made of poles with a palm thatch roof, literally free. But, lately I met someone who said there was nothing along the coast that was like that anymore. American retirees and other foriegners had flooded into all the small oceanfront towns in Mexico.

I do know most of the ex-patriots I met in both countries used the local medical services because they felt the doctors there were competent and charged less than the ones at home. They said you can also get prescriptions drugs very cheap, drugs that had proven to be as good as any FDA drugs here. Many drugs we need a prescription for were sold over the counter there.

I suppose the idea that rich Americans entering a foriegn country might cause problems would seem unthinkable to some people, but I really do feel it sometimes has a negative effect.

Foreigners and tourists do bring more jobs for local people, but there are no free lunches anywhere. Sometimes I wonder if the losses are worth it.

Jun 8 2007
08:10 am

UPDATE: WBIR has a copy of the credit card statement.

The Knoxville News Sentinel files this report on yesterday's Knox County budget hearing.

Perhaps because it was public, it sounds as though Commission Chair Scooby Moore created some political theater by focusing Commission's ire on Mayor Ragsdale's travel and entertainment spending.

The article mentions restaurant tabs ranging from, gasp, $187 to $351 at various upscale restaurants. So what? There are a couple of business related dinner tabs for over $500 on my books. Big deal. T&E is a cost of doing business. And I'm not even in charge of a $600+ million operation serving 400,000+ customers.

The county cars plus travel bonuses issue is at least a legitimate concern. But it sounds like there was an inordinate amount of time spent on what are essentially rounding errors in a $600+ million budget with urgent mega-funding needs for education, employee benefits and raises, and the new pension looming on the horizon.

Scooby says they may have to pass a continuation budget because they just don't understand the budget proposal and need more time to get answers. Perhaps if he could put aside his animus towards Ragsdale long enough to take care of the County's business there would be plenty of time to debate and pass a budget.

And with only a few exceptions, Knox County Commission would not seem to have much moral authority at this point to be suggesting ethical lapses in other county government functions.

That's not to say that the Mayor's office or any other department should get a free pass on budget oversight, but County Commission would seem to have bigger fish to fry than a $187 dinner tab at Club LeConte.

UPDATE: On the other hand, WATE and WBIR both have reports of county employee credit card charges for Comcast Cable and Waste Connections. If employees are charging personal expenses on the taxpayer's dime then it's something that definitely ought to be looked in to. But it shouldn't necessarily hold up the county budget process and sounds like something that needs to be dealt with as a personnel issue.

UPDATE: See Bill Young's comments. This was not all that was discussed at the meeting as you might be led to believe by the media reports.

UPDATE: A couple of things I failed to mention.



Jun 8 2007
07:08 am

The Knoxville News Sentinel has finally, nearly two weeks later, printed two letters to the editor (scroll down) in response to the ridiculous guest editorial on climate change. The letter writers effectively straighten out the original column's erroneous claims regarding scientific method and the validity of current climate science.

We applaud the KNS for their new "citizens voice" program, which features regular op-ed columns written by a selected panel of contributors. But even though the writers are not paid professional KNS staff, the KNS still has a responsibility to check the validity of information presented as "fact" -- not only for "citizens voice" columns but for all editorial and op-ed content.

For example, just this week KNS editor Jack McElroy asserted in an editorial that Tennessee has no "hate crime" statute. This is not correct. (See TCA 40-35-114 (17) regarding enhanced sentencing.) Who edits the editors?

Just because a column is "opinion" as opposed to "news" does not mean writers can make stuff up to support their conclusions. Allowing them to do so is a disservice to readers, who in many cases are already misinformed on a wide range of issues because of irresponsible, sloppy journalism and outright agenda-based propaganda such as the "global warming is a leftist hoax" column.

The same goes for bloggers, too, if we want to be taken seriously.

Jun 8 2007
06:35 am

Alabama Republican Senator punches Democratic Senator.

And, of course, it's on video!

Jun 7 2007
12:13 pm
By: clarkstooksbury  shortURL

I have a review of Deep Economy by Bill McKibben in this week's (swimsuit issue!) of Metro pulse. Check it, and the book, out.

Jun 7 2007
10:11 am

As some of you know, I have two blogs. One is personal, and one I write for WBIR.com.

In the past year, I've pretty much slacked on the WBIR.com one, but starting today, those of you interested in reading it are going to see some big changes.

First of all, there is gonna be a lot more blogging going on. A lot more. And over the next few months, you are going to see it evolve and grow into something closer to (link...), Knoxville-style.

Currently, my blog is here.

I hope you will check it out. Among the coming changes, you may soon see the blog getting a new look and even a new name/URL. (My husband would like to see it get a new picture of me up there in that upper corner, 'cause he thinks that picture is terrible;-)

I hope you will add me to your daily blog reads, and please consider sending me topics, links, newstips, etc that I should post. You can reach me at kagranju@gmail.com



Jun 7 2007
07:20 am

Local broadcast media racked up several awards at the Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters awards banquet last Saturday.

First place winners include:

Best TV Newscast:
6 News Team, WATE-TV, 6 News @ 5:00

Best Public Affairs:
Don Dare and Dave Wignall, WATE-TV, Scam Alert

Best Photography:
Jason Tighe, WVLT-TV

Best Spot News:
News Team, WNOX, The Houstons

Best Enterprise:
Christine Jessel, WNOX, Garbage Bears

Best Hard News Story:
Matt Shafer Powell, WUOT, Public Notice

Best Radio Talk Show:
Matt Shafer Powell and Ann Lloyd, WUOT, Dialogue

Best Radio Newscaster:
Catherine Howell, WNOX

WUOT and WNOX also had numerous honorable mentions. Congratulations to everyone.

Jun 7 2007
02:47 am

Have the skyboxes and/or pressbox and Thompson Boling Arena, the football practice structure, Thornton Center, etc. ever been used to hold regular classes thru the week? They are very nice facilities I assume. I know classes were taught in Neyland under the stands, but there seems a lot of under utilized space thru the week.

Jun 6 2007
06:22 pm
By: Mark Harmon  shortURL

At four p.m. today Knox County's school board and county commission had a joint gathering to discuss the budget. The mayor generally was upbeat about school performance. Interim Supt. Mullins a few others answered questions.

In response to one of my questions, Mullins found figures that Knox County is spending $7259 per pupil, $210 below the state average. These figures include federal Child Nutrition spending and other items not directly under state or local control.

I also asked about the effect of a significant cut in the county health department's school health budget. No one seemed sure, but several speculated that may be immunization visits. I'll have to ask the health department more about that.

One surprise: School Board's Cindy Buttry and I are veterans of the NFL. That is, National Forensic League. We're talking speech and debate, not cadavers. It is a club activity. Thomas Deakins and I talked briefly after the meeting about the advantages of it having a stronger presence in our schools.

Dan Murphy stressed that we shouldn't be so happy we've been able to meet our minimum needs and maybe a little extra for things that don't sound like extras, eg. some improved security. Our sights should be higher.

Tomorrow (Thursday June 7) at 5 p.m. is the public input session regarding the budget. I'm hoping for a good turnout with folks raising specific concerns.

--Mark Harmon

Jun 6 2007
06:21 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Andy Axel tells it like it is in a comment below which I shall post on the front page here...

This is the daily friggin' battle.

We elect a Democrat into the governor's office who trashes workers' comp, throws people off their health insurance, his support for Senate candidates nets the loss of the Senate majority, he chides supporters of the Kerry candidacy in 2004, and we help to re-elect him anyway because JIM! Bryson is such a nutsack.

We throw our support behind Harold Ford Jr. even though he quickly proceeds to sell out progressive causes throughout his campaign, and watch helplessly as he jumps into a cozy seat in the GOP-lite DLC chair.

We're forced to endure multiple indignities on progressive issues like gay marriage because stupid Democrats walk right into these traps set for us by Republicans, and because, well, we suck at framing issues and try to lead by following.

We get the John Fords and Ward Crutchfields and Dave Cooleys and Doug Henrys and Jerry Coopers and Jimmy Naifehs working on our account. Big whoop.

It's the daily death by a thousand cuts, and the guy almost always wielding the knife for the coup de grace in this godforsaken place always seems to have a donkey on his lapel. (And I do mean "his.") And then we get to play laughingstock to the smug, self-righteous "fuck the South" types. Not saying that Tennessee doesn't earn it at times, but Brittney Gilbert sure as hell didn't. These people conveniently forget: If Al Gore had spent five minutes here, he'd probably be president today.

This isn't any kind of news to anyone, I'm certain.

Now we have to sweat national bloggers enforcing their own vision of partisan piety, and doing so at the expense of people with the least influence and zero actual power.

Et tu, PatriotBoy?

To which I can add... not much right now, because that pretty much sums it up. I'm still formulating my thoughts. I will have more on this later.

Jun 6 2007
12:42 pm

Brittney at Nashville is Talking has resigned. I haven't been following the latest controversy, but it appears she got hammered pretty hard for something she linked to and it pushed her over the edge.

This is a real shame. Her NiT blog is a huge force in the Tennessee blogosphere, and the NiT aggregator helped promote a lot of Nashville and state blogs including this one. She has done a fabulous job for WKRN and for Tennessee bloggers.

One of the best and worst things about the interwebs is the "wild west" atmosphere. It makes for a wide latitude in expressing viewpoints, but too many idiots have to abuse it and ruin it for everybody.

Everyone, me included, ought to remember from time to time that there are actual people on the other end of all the online hate and vitriol. I wish people could just tone it down a little and say what they mean in a forceful yet mature way without all the venom and crude attacks. It would be a lot more effective, and might even get someone who otherwise wouldn't to pay more attention to what we're saying instead of how we say it.

Jun 6 2007
09:46 am
By: Eleanor A  shortURL

Now, here's a bit of news that shouldn't surprise anyone:

Libby moves to delay prison term

By MATT APUZZO and PETE YOST, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON - Attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby are preparing a last-ditch effort to delay the former White House aide's 2 1/2-year prison sentence, even as President Bush declined to say Wednesday whether he was considering a pardon.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation. He became the highest-ranking White House official sentenced to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.

He requested leniency but a federal judge said he would not reward someone who hindered the investigation into the exposure of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame. Her husband had accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

"Mr. Libby failed to meet the bar. For whatever reason, he got off course," said U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, adding that the evidence of Libby's guilt was overwhelming.

Libby's attorneys immediately sought to put the prison term on hold until his appeals have run out. Walton said he saw no reason to do so but reluctantly gave Libby's attorneys until Thursday to submit legal papers on the issue.

Ten to one he doesn't go in stir until middle of '08, so Bush can pardon him after the elections in December...

Jun 6 2007
09:33 am

Rich Hailey has organized another Blogfest for this Saturday!

WHEN: Saturday, June 9
WHERE: Bailey’s in West Knoxville.

I have a round up of potential attendees, Michael Silence has posted an announcement, and Lissa Kay has challenged some people to show up.

See you there!

Jun 6 2007
09:02 am
By: bizgrrl  shortURL

On a lighter side...

Starbucks is opening a third store in Blount County. It will be across the parking lot from the existing Starbucks in the Kroger food store.

No doubt I'm a latte fan. IMO, Starbucks were a little more fun when they were a little harder to find. I'm sure a fourth should be in the works sooner than later to serve the growing West side of town.

(Note: Atlanta Bread, please return to your regular hours... We miss you!)

Jun 6 2007
08:08 am

In a post entitled I Hate These People, Tom Tomorrow limns a scene from last night's GOP presidential debate:

Brownback, during the audience Q&A portion of the debate, to a woman whose younger brother died in Iraq eight days before he was due to rotate home:

“Thank you for your family’s service, and what your brother did, that’s incredible, an incredible gift that he and your family have given us.”

Now, what this boils down to is that a citizen said:

"My brother died."

And a man who wants to be president said:


How did the other candidates respond?


”I’m going to give you a little straight talk.”

Straight talk? HOW ABOUT A LITTLE SYMPATHY? How about, "That's tragic. Losing a loved one is difficult. I am sorry for your loss." Just because you say "I'm sorry" doesn't mean that you're taking responsibility. It means that you feel something at a human level.

These exchanges underline something very important, and very telling, about our current state of affairs. It shows you just how deep that the well of denial runs among those still faithful to the mission in Iraq. They are so convinced that they are right that they cannot acknowledge the human toll that this continuing war is exacting on people, every day. How long is it before Fox News starts running a daily tally of the gifts that Sunni militia are giving the United States every day? "24 gifts were given to Our Country today as an IED exploded in a Green Zone cafeteria..."

And as for McCain's "straight talk:" If you've got to qualify your statements by saying, "I'm going to be completely honest with you," it typically means that you're normally full of shit. QED.

Jun 6 2007
06:23 am

County Mayor Mike Ragdale is right on the money in moving to sell the Andrew Johnson Building. My suggestion would be to move as many of the county employees currently in the AJ to TVA's East Tower.

I have never understood why we put our (public) servants' quarters on some of East Tennessee's most prime, waterfront real estate.

Jun 6 2007
06:19 am

sad, actually, that our much hoped for/now bankrupt local company IPIX never teamed with Google on 360 degree photos. But good that someone finally figured out a semi-killer app for photo bubbles.

Google continues to impress with personalized map applications.


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