Wednesday, February 07, 2007

English Only: Saved by the Bell

We know the tale of the tape on the new "English First" bill. What drew my interest was the story in the Tennessean indicating Councilman and Mayoral candidate David Briley was absent.

It seems to be a bit more interesting than the lone word "absent" can imply. I have heard tell that Briley was indeed present at the meeting both before and after the vote on the English First measure. From what I hear Briley is telling people that he had to step out into the hall to take a call from a family member.

Saved by the bell ...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

That Must Be Nice ...

A little bird just told me a story:

From what I hear, Liz Garrigan over at the Nashville Scene, wife of the new Deputy Mayor has done some travel recently. Apparently she went along with her husband and the mayor on a tax-payer financed trip to Greece.

If true, it's good to know where my taxes are going ... I hear that Larry Brinton is looking into it. Can't wait to hear the full story.

Update: Kleinheider has said that the report is false. And it seems I've been mocked for lack of proof. Not saying I have any. But all that's been said so far against me is that the story isn't true. Now that's proof ...

King of the County - Money Talks

I've been on the road in colder climes, so I'm a bit behind. But tibdbits and updates are on the way. Here are some new or not so new items. It's financial disclosure season. So we get a temperature reading on all the mayoral contenders. As we can see below, some are doing far better than others.

-Buck Dozier filed his financial disclosure, and as of late January, he has raised only raised $100,000. Ouch! Bud better get cracking.

- At the other end of the spectrum, Bob Clement has been pulling in some of that business money. The Clement Campaign has great momentum and has raised more than $630,000 so far in this Mayor's campaign. Clement filed his disclosure on Wednesday morning. The report showed that Clement raised $300,949.59 this reporting period and has $475,881.00 cash on hand.

What will Bob do with that money? Well his new HQ is in all probability one result,
Camp Clement is not at 100 Oaks on second floor of AmSouth Bank Bldg. Signs on building should be easlly visible from I-65, I-440, Thompson Lane, Woodmont Blvd, Armory Drive, and Franklin Road.

Money talks in politics ... and I can barely hear Dozier.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Sales Job

Not that I expected Condaleeza Rice to be able to convince the now democrate-led Foreign-Relations Committee, but her performance this morning has been horrificly bad. Her non-answers to some reasonable questions seem laugable.

Tim Greive of the War Room has a good run down of Rice's repeating mantra: we have to send more troops. What if the Iraqis don't cooperate? Well, you see, we need to send more troops. How long will the troops be there? Well, you see, we need to send more troops. Apply, Rinse, Repeat.

Iraq - Has the Esclation Begun? - Update

The BBC is reporting that U.S. forces have seized the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi city of Irbil. We are now holding six Iranian nationals from the consulate. Reasons are not forthcoming. Details sure to follow.

In the same vein, some bloggers over at Daily Kos are pointing to a small line in Bush's speech. In the same breath, he mentioned sending an additional carrier strike force and patriot missile batteries. As ps2006voter points out, patriot missile batteries are not an anti-insurgent weapon. None of our many opponents in Iraq possess weapons which would require patriot missilesto counter.

A message to Iran? Or getting ready for the "new front"?

The President's Plan - On a Wing and Prayer

Alright, after sleeping on this, I have more and more doubts. Further, Rice and Gates are out and about this morning adding elaborations to the plan which need some examining.

First, the plan itself ... as I wrote last night, there seems little reason to trust the al-Maliki regime now. Promises have been made in the past to no avail. What is different now? Nothing it seems except we're saying we'll give it another go. All this in light of National Security Advisor Hadley's assessment last November that Prime Minister al-Maliki is "either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action." The ENTIRE plan now rests on this the trust of this individual. That much was clear last night.

But this morning, it deepens. Accoridng to Rice, the new way forward is actually an Iraqi plan that al-Maliki layed out for Bush in Amman, Jordan last November. Really? This could be the beginning of shifting the blame, laying a nice rhetorical touch in case things do not go as planned.

Speaking of fall-back positions, it seems like Rice's rhetoric is the only one we have. This morning, Secretary of Defense Gates was asked what we do if the Iraqis don't live up to their side of the plan. It's a good question. After all, the President said last night that our committment to Iraq is not open-ended. Gates' answer? Well, you see ... we're not sending all our troops at once ... we'll know ahead of time if the Iraqis arent' cooperating ...

Ok, so what do we do if they don't cooperate? Nothing it seems ... just keep on keepin' on. There is a lot of talk in the media that this is the "last chance plan." But I don't think so. Bush has been annoyingly consistent in one belief, that we cannot fail in Iraq. So no matter what happens or doesn't happen in Iraq, he'll try "one more time" until the end of his term, passing on the horrid mess to someone else.

I'm just not sure what he can pass on. The plan to surge and accelerate essentailly tops out our global military committment. We've got essentially nothing left to send anywhere. As the military has already said, the military is breaking. If this plan doesn't work, we've got no other options of sending troops. The only way out of that trap is to expand the military, which has already been planned. As to that plan, I have to turn to my phrase from last night, "if wishes were wings ..." It's all fine and good to say let's expand the military. It's quite another to find the volunteers to do so. All of tihs says nothing of the cost (if wishes were dollars ... well, you know).

And lastly, speaking of a strained military, there was an ominous vagueness of Bush's speech concerning Iran and Syria. The President said we'd stop their support of insurgents, logistical, training, and otherwise. How we'll do that remained undefined. Although he did mention that we are sending an additional carrier group to the region. This morning, when the questions was put to Rice (would we strike Iran directly) ... Rice demurred, nothing is off the table, we'll do what is necessary, etc. To that notion I can only reel from shock. We can barely scrape up 20,000 troops for this "surge" and we might consider radically escalating the conflict?!

Not much new here ... bad news all around.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The President has Spoken - If Wishes were Wings ...

The President's speech was designed (over 2 months in the making) to highlight the "changes" in his Iraq "strategy." If wishes were wings, the president's new policy might be able to get off the ground.

At the outset, you might notice how much of the new policy has the Iraqi Government doing this or that. I assume these things are based on promises of the Maliki government. More on that later.
Here's a thumb-nail sketch of the "new" plan:

-The Iraqi Government will appoint a military commander for Bagdhad to coordinate increasing security.

-The Iraqi government will devote 18 Iraqi Police Brigades to patrol Baghdad.

-More than 20,000 additional U.S. troops, 5 brigades to Baghdad alone.

-The Mission of these additional troops will be to help Iraqis clear and hold neighborhoods

-The U.S. will hold the Iraqis to benchmarks of taking responsibility of security by November, 2006.

-Iraq will pass legislature to share oil revenues.

-Iraq will spend $10 billion of it's own money for reconstruction.

-Iraq will hold more elections.

-The Iraqis will reform De-Baathification Laws and amend their constition to effect reconciliation.

- We will embedding U.S. troops with Iraqis, according to the Iraq's Study Group's recommendations.

-We will double the number of reconstruction teams.

-We will work to stabilize the region by dealing with Iran and Syria.

-We will work with Turkey.

-We will work with allies to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.

-The President will send Condi Rice to the region to work out the details.

I honestly don't know how any of this is difference from what we've been trying before. Except this time it will work. Actually, the President did attempt to address why these efforts have failed in the past. The main reasons for past failures were the lack of adequate troops to clear and hold neighborhoods and Iraqi political interference. Well now, we'll have 20,000 (or more, Bush was not specific) and the Iraqis have promised to cooperate.

Wow, that's all that we needed ... 20,000 more troops and the Iraqis to cooperate. Now we have all that we need. Well not exactly. We have been warned to ignore all the death and destruction that we will see on the news. That has no bearing on the success of the new plan.

Finally, and my personal favorite bit of logic from the evening, the President has warned us that if we pull out now, we'll have to stay in Iraq longer than if we follow his plan. Did I miss something?

Seriously, the President has outlined a list of things he'd like to happen. The last year has more than demonstrated that our wishes count for naught in Iraq. If the new plan is to have the Iraqi government really cooperate with us now, we are in deep trouble.

As an aside, I was impressed that there was only one 9/11 reference. And although Bush said that responsibility for past mistakes rested with him, all references to these errors were in the passive voice.

Let the media feeding-frenzy begin!

The President Speaks

Tonight, as we all know, the President will unveil his already well-known "way forward in Iraq." I offered the leaked outlines of the plan last week. I'm sure those details will hold.

The media is in full anticipation and commentary mode *yawn*. I'll be looking at their reactions tomorrow. But tonight, I wanted to debunk some truly bad arguments that's being wafted about.

First, perhaps snidely, I have to comment on a blip I heard this morning. We all know that Bush will attempt the near impossible, convincing the American public that the Iraq debacle can be salvaged AND that 20,000 and a couple of billion will do it nicely. A herculean feat for even the most skilled of wordsmiths. Oh, wait, President Bush isn't that. But not to fear, his press staff say that Bush will be in "education and explanation" mode this evening. So everyone, look forward to being schooled on the nuances of the Iraqi quagmire this evening. Ought to be interesting.

Lastly, I just have to call'em like I see it. When confronted with poll numbers showing that the American public, in vast numbers, do not favor increasing troop levels, the admimistration's line is that "we don't make policy decisions based on polls." But then I hear, almost in the same breath, "we truly believe that the American public wants to win and that they support our policies." Hmm, can't have it both ways. But who after all is really paying attention?!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dem Caucaus Rule Violates Ethics Code? Don't Think So

Kleinheider of Volunteer Voter has an interesting post from past my bedtime last night. Target2 on News2 was preparing a story on the State Democratic Caucus meeting to select a candidate for Lt. Governor. Trent Seibert of Target2 believed he was on the cusp of catching the entire Democratic Caucus in an ethics violation as they both selected a candidate and voted for that candidate in next Tuesday's vote.

At issue was a rule covering the selection of a candidate:

A binding vote will be made on the election of the Speaker and other leaders of the Senate and on reapportionment matters. A person may abstain from voting for such leadership position or reapportionment and not be bound by the Caucus position except if he be a candidate for a leadership position in the Caucus.

Did this really violate the Rules of the Senate as Trent believes? Here are the pertinent rules:

(e) It shall be unethical:

(3) for any member of the Senate , by loyalty pledge, unit rule, or other formal agreement, to restrict himself or herself, or any other member of the Senate, from voting on any matters before the Senate or any of its committees except in accordance with the member's personal convictions and with the member's oath of office.

Ultimately, Trent's story in progress was made moot as the Caucus rule was dropped just prior to the secret ballot which ultimately gave Wilder another stint as the Democratic candidate.

But what I take issue with is the "gotcha" conclusion that was being prepared, "So basically Trent was set to nail every member of the Democratic Caucus on an ethics violation as soon as they made their binding vote for Speaker."

Hmm, seems to me that there's one big problem with this conclusion. The Senate rules deem it unethical to make a binding promise of a vote "except in accordance with the member's personal convictions."

So the Caucus rule is only unethical for those who do not wish to vote for Wilder in the first place. That really only applies to Sen. Jerry Cooper and not the 15 other Democratic senators.

As I've said, since the Caucus rules were dropped, this is all moot. But I don't think Trent Seibert or anyone else could pin this ethics violation on "every member of the Democratic Caucus." But then, that wouldn't be much of a story.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wilder wins Nomination

Hardly a surprise, I know. But John Wilder is the Democratic nominee to lead the State Senate in the new session. Not a surprise despite the challenge Sen. Joe Haynes. The only interesting outcome from the meeting was Sen. Jerry Cooper's depature from the meeting today without indicating his support for Wilder. Previously, Sen. Cooper had said that he would not support Wilder for another term as Lt. Governor. Next Tuesday's vote will be interesting, not to mention a weekend full of potential posturing.

Schooling the Board of Education? Vandy Survey Results

The Tennessean is reporting on some of the early results from Vanderbilt's Peabody Center for Education Policy's poll of Tennesseans. Full results will be given to the State Board of Ed later this month.

Mayoral candidates, listen up! These are 601 poll respondents who voted in November.

Some of the findings? Not that surprising. They represent a mis-mash of popular prejudices about public education in America.

-Tennesse's education system rates poorly.
-Teachers ought to be paid more.
-BUT, we're not eager to spend more money on the educational system.
-Parents are primarily to blame for the state of education. (This is my favorite one)

I hope the full report offers some sane policy recommendations.

Meet the Gatekeeper - Marsha Blackburn

Rep. Blackburn is named Deputy Republican Whip, serving under Rep. Roy Blunt. She is quoted as saying that being "deputy whip will give her the opportunity to rally the support needed to counteract democrat policies 'that would raise taxes and wreak havoc on our surging economy.'" (Tennessean)

Cast Your Vote - Report Highlights Difficulties with Electronic Voting Machines

We're all familiar, perhaps even tired, of reports of voting problems, dare we say fraud in some cases? Since Bush v. Gore, such voting issues have been a hot topic. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) only deepened the controversy by ushering electronic voting machines into our lives. Conspriacy theories about the 2004 elections popped up like mushrooms. The conventional wisdom was that the 2006 mid-terms put to rest remaining concerns about the efficiency and efficacy of electronic voting machines (notwithstanding the Florida 13th district bruhaha).

But out today is a report by (homepage) that deserves all our attention. No, this is no shrill accusation of vote-fixing and over-arching conspiracies. This is a reasoned, serious, documented accounting of the 2006 vote. The full report can be downloaded here.

One of the most troubling findings among the conclusions is this,

there were over three and a half times as many reports of problems with DREs; nearly nine times as many usability difficulties with DREs; and over fifteen times as many reports of long lines and/or voters leaving without voting. In fact, scanner or EBM malfunctions only resulted in long lines and/or voters leaving without voting when poll workers failed to allow voters to deposit ballots for later scanning.

Tennesse is one of those 38 states that rely on DRE or Direct Record Electronic voting machines. Here in Metro Nashville, long lines were the story of the 2006 elections. (Tennessean) The high turn-out was great news. The inability of the of system to handle a robust electorate is not.

The Davidson County Election Commission's answer is to buy more machines. While more machines may help, this report casts doubt over the type of machine itself. It's not an issue of the brand or manufacture of machine (whether Shelby county's Diebold machines or Davidson's iVotronics). (Tennessean) Nor does it seem to be purely an issue of familiarty with the machines as the report finds,

The problems experienced cannot be blamed entirely on the implementation of new equipment in this election cycle. For example, 78 problems were reported about the DREs Georgia has been using since 2002, and the equipment which is now the subject of legal challenges in Sarasota County, Florida has been in place since the 2002 primaries.

A sobering read.

King of the County - The Debates to Come

I was just musing over the talking points and not so polite questions, dirt, and mud that may be slung as the Nashville Mayor's race heats up. Also in this list are issues that the candidates may have to confront as the race goes on. Right or wrong, these topics are likely to be aired as the candidates get running.

Karl Dean - As public defender, he represented hundreds of alleged criminals such as drug dealers, murderers, rapists, robbers and child molesters; there are questions under state law about the legality of his using his wife's money, just like the John Kerry wife money issue; he has zero name recognition(or maybe 3%).

David Briley- Briley is a Trial Lawyer (I capitalize those words to refer to the media caricature of a trial lawyer) and brags about it (see his "witty" commerical "delicately" emphasizing just this - YouTube; he is too green and/or not experienced enough; a strong advocate for immigrant and gay rights under the law; he can't raise the necessary money; he plans heavy use of internet but so will the other candidates.

Buck Dozier - Nashville Christian School closed under his supervision; he was $3 million dollars over budget when he was in charge of the Metro Fire Dept. and used equipment money to paint the fire trucks instead; very right wing.

Howard Gentry - unstable job history; lacks management ability to the point where council meetings run until 2am; his 2003 tie-breaking Metro Council vote on gay rights; he can't raise the money.

Bob Clement - Lifetime in politics; strong partisan Democrat; "old politics"; talks slow and Southern (not slick-sounding).

The list is by no means comprehensive. Just some musings as lunchtime slips away.

Legal Red Tape - The Roll goes on

The wrangling over J. Houston Gordon's place on the Judicial Selection Commission's slate of candidates to the State Supreme Court goes on. The Supreme Court itself will weigh in on the issue.

The Judicial Selection Commission had planned on submitting an entirely new slate of candidates to Bredesen this month, in accordance with a Davidson County Chancery Court decision which sided with Bredesen. But the Supreme Court's decision to take up Gordon's appeal will delay the Commission.

Arguments are set for February and we are not to expect a decision for some time. Apart from the legal intracies of this controversy, the latest twist is fascinating. The 4 Supreme Court justices will weigh in on the process for selection of their future colleague. City Paper

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Next Governor's Race

It's never too early to start thinking about who will vie for Bredesen's job in 2010. I've mused earlier on this, commenting that Rep. Marsha Blackburn's ads in the 2006 House race had an eye on the Governor's Mansion in 2010.

I think it's time to add another Republican name to the potential bunch. Former Senator Bill Frist. Having officially declined to enter into the 2008 presidential fray, he's spending more time with his family. And who could blame him? The prospect of campaigning on the shining acheivements of the 109th Congress wasn't exactly thrilling, least of all to the leader of that fracas.

Bill may consider taking historically more successful route to the White House. Most who successfully run for President have been their homestate governor may be his thinking and he is right. By 2010, the memory of the 109th Congress will probably be long fuzzy.

Other Repubicans wanting to run may turn out to be Marsha Blackburn, Zach Wamp, and maybe Jim Haslam Jr.

Legal Red Tape (the whole roll)

Business TN has an interesting cover article about one figure caught in the bruhaha between Bredesen and the Judicial Selection Commission. (Business TN) Interesting for its coverage of the history of the Tennessee Plan and its unforseen consequences, this piece is really a pean for J. Houston Gordon. An emminently qualified jurist, Gordon is caught in the peculiar situation of being on the controversial slate resubmitted by the Judicial Selection Commission.

Interesting reading ... but a technical legal controversy only a lawyer could love.

King of the County - Big Bucks and a New Face

Aah, the new year, time for the Nashville Mayoral race to get serious. Two interesting tibdits.

-Clement winning over Republicans? The City Paper is reporting today on the electoral importance of winning over Davidson County Republicans. Clement is apprently taking this advice seriously, having had a sit-down with State Rep. Beth Harwell. Also of interest is Davidson County Republican Chariman Jon Crisp's comment that Republicans are leaning toward Bob Clement. An early trend but significant. If you combine Clement's apparent growing Republican support with his Democratic base and that does not leave much room for other candidates. It's shaping up to be a $2 million race for Mayor. It's highly doubtful that anyone but Clement can raise that amount.

-The crucial issues facing Mayoral candidates are shaping up to be Education and Crime. Bob Clement has emphasized these issues for a year now. Today, the City Paper editorial has agreed, pointing to them as the key issues for the race. There seems to be lots of agreement. David Briley, Karl Dean, and Buck Dozier all echoed same two issues in their announcements. So, no disagreement on issues. Everyone is moving to ground that Clement has cultivated for some time now. Winning is all about shaping the debate. Clement's team has done it's job well.

-As for the new face, Karl Dean's entry to mayoral race is big news. But it seems to be bad news for David Briley. They both draw from the same young trial lawyer base of support. One big difference is that Dean's wife has a significant family coal-mining fortune. Dean will probably follow Bredesen's model and self-finance to take advantage of that pot of money. While the money will flow, Dean may be forgetting that Bredesen lost his first two elections (agianst Bill Boner for Mayor and against Bob Clement for Congress in late 1980's). Money aside, Dean may have other problems. Dean also is viewed as the candidate who will keep the incumbents like David Manning (widely unpopular) in office. Despite all this, Dean is getting serious. He is offering staff jobs at up to $10,000 per month already and hired Jim Hester at a reported $8,000 per month. Hester ran Ford campaign up to June 2006 when he was forced out and moved over to Democratic Coordinated Campaign (not a good sign).

Cleaning out the Inbox - Governor and Party Roundup

-Gary Odom was elected by Democrats in the General Assembly. It appears to be a protest vote against Bredesen, punishment for his beneign neglect of them. Odom and Bredesen never been close. If anyone recalls, Odom raised significant questions about finances and contracts on Bredesen's original deal with Titans. Odom was right but nobody cared. Football can always trump politics.

-Gov. Bredesen has appointed Stuart Brunson to be new Deputy Governor, replacing Dave Cooley. This is a speed-bump of a story. Brunson's appointment will mean little practical change as Cooley and Brunson have long worked together as a team. A new face is all this is really about. The only significant change that Brunson's appointment will bring is even more influence for Johnny Hayes, Bredesen's chief fundraiser. Brunson and Hayes are business partners in various lobbying interests. The pick of the new Deputy Governor is all in the family.

-Not getting the tap for Deputy Governor was Randy Button, former Democratic state party chair. Failing to get the spot, Button has formed a lobbying company of his own.

-Bredesen apparently will tap Gray Sasser, son of former U.S. Senator Sasser, to be the new Democratic state party chair. A weak move by Bredesen as there seems to be some doubts about Gray's fundraising abilities. All this is of course subject to a vote next week by the state party executive committee. But really, whoever Bredesen wants in this role, he'll get.

Cleaning out the Inbox

As the new year rolls on, I thought I'd at post some of the tidbits from the past month or so. I know, I know ... old news is not news. I'll feel better though when the inbox is clean. So, following will be series of old news posts

Surge and Accelerate - Getting Ready for the Debate

The semi-official leaks of the "New Way Forward in Iraq" are making their way through the morning news shows. While none of the information is a surprise, the media engines are beginning to rev in preparation for exhausting coverage of the official announcement scheduled for sometime next week.

So let's review ahead of the media blast.

According to the leaks the plan's central pillar is to boost troops numbers by 20,000. Also, reconstruction funding will be boosted. The "logic" of the plan is to accelerate the fight for security so that the Iraqi's can take over security roles sooner. The title of this new way forward? "Surge and Accelerate"

Ok, let's take this step by step:

-This plan is immensely unpopular: The American people are overwhelmingly against the idea of a surge. 56% Oppose, 11% Favor, %32 for the Status Quo. (Polling Report). The troops on the ground oppose this plan. For the first time, serving troops disapprove of the president's handling of the war. In terms of troop numbers, 39% favor current levels or lower while %22 favor a surge similar to Bush's plan. (Military Times Poll)(AP News).

-In terms of the reconstruction effort, where did Bush get the notion that more money is the answer. As has been amply demonstrated, the problem with the reconstruction to date has been corruption and a lack of security. (Washington Post)(BBC). Even giving Bush the benefit of the doubt about the outcome of the surge in terms of security, I will be eagerly awaiting details on where this new money will come from and how it will be handled differently from past reconstruction monies that have been squandered, wasted, or outright stolen. Also, while Congressional Democrats may be too timid to withhold funding from our troops, it is a relatively risk-free proposition to withhold funding from the proven money-pit that is the Iraqi Reconstruction.

-From a P.R. perspective, "Surge and Accelerate"? Really?! This is the best they can come up with? In a more serious vein, the time for new slogans has long been over. But apparently, P.R. and political concerns are paramount with the Administration. The New York Times had an interesting piece yesterday. Apparently, by mid-September the Administration could not deny what has been obvious to the rest of the world, namely that Iraq was spiraling out of control. They saw the need for a reassessment but would not say so publically before the elections. So, let me get this straight, the lives of our troops are less important that appearing steadfast?! (New York Times).

This just in, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has announced that he will not seek a second term and that he "wishes his job was over"!! (Reuters).

Worst of all, this is the administration's best idea! No really, no other ideas. The American Enterpise Institute's Frederick Kagan told the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
"If we surge and it doesn't work, it's hard to imagine what we do after that. But we're already in a very bad spot, and if we don't do anything defeat is imminent."

All in all, I don't see more numbers making a difference. But it sure will be an interesting week.