Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Earth Will Rotate on Its Axis

This morning, the editorial writers at The Tennessean offer the following bits of profundity:

Certainly, the devastation of one of America's great cities and the deaths of some 2,000 people are nothing that this nation wants to experience again....

Disasters will happen. They can't be prevented.

For good measure, they add that no matter how much we do, there will still be disasters. They also inform us that because human beings are not infallible, we will have occasional tragedies.

Ya don't say? I hate to so frequently criticize the writing and thought of the paper of record in Nashville -- well, I don't hate it too much -- but I swear that they sometimes write as though they have not yet finished junior high.

Conservatives in Nashville frequently complain that The Tennessean is liberal. I don't really care about whether an editorial page is liberal or conservative; however, it is embarrassing to the city when they don't manage to be competent.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Satire

Attorneys representing estranged planet Pluto have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Michigan, seeking an injunction stopping the demotion of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union from the planetary status it has held for most of the last century. That group of attorneys also filed a related suit seeking class action status for school children who were taught that Pluto was a planet.

"For several generations, children have learned their planets by reciting the phrase 'my very educated mother just served us nine pizzas,'" a spokesman for the attorneys said. "The loss of the pizza destroys the entire structure of their learning and is emotionally unsettling. People are going to need therapy and deserve to be compensated for this tragedy. The so-called scientists didn't even make arrangments for crisis counseling services."

Attorneys for scientists responsible for the decision to deny Pluto its previous distinction as the ninth planet in the solar system quickly sought to have these suits dismissed and accused the plaintiffs of "venue shopping" for a friendly court. At a press conference, one of the lawyers asked, "Why should an international and cosmological matter be tried in Detroit? The plaintiffs were just looking for a court that would be predisposed to rule in their favor"

Attorneys for Pluto denied that charge, saying that federal district judge Anna Diggs Taylor had considerable experience with far out arguments, and thus was the right person to judge a matter involving the outer edges of the solar system

The lawsuit in behalf of Pluto claims that the former planet has been deprived due process and equal protection under the law. Attorneys are asking for trillions of dollars in economic and punitive damages, arguing that this "sudden and unprecedented action will devastate Pluto's economic development plans." A spokesman claimed that the icy, barren planet could become a destination of choice for tourists once Republicans in Congress succeed in opening ANWR to oil drilling. He added that former presidential candidate Al Gore had already scheduled a visit to Pluto.

Gore, who was born exactly nine months after space aliens allegedly landed at Roswell, New Mexico, could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesman noted that Gore had, after all, invented the space rocket.

A hearing has not been scheduled in these cases. Given the court's backlog, it should occur sometime in the next Plutonian year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fallout of Jerry Cooper Indictment

An article in this morning’s Nashville City Paper on the indictment of state senator Jerry Cooper speaks of his chairmanship of the “powerful Senate Commerce Committee.” Though no one should doubt the Committee’s power, a review of its recent history affirms the axiom that power is sometimes fleeting.

In 2004, the Senate Commerce, Agriculture, and Labor Committee included, among others who have fared better, the following members:

Bill Claybough, who lost his bid for re-election in 2004.

Jo Anne Graves, who lost her bid for re-election in 2004.

Larry Trail, who lost his bid for re-election in 2004 and tragically died earlier this week.

Ward Crutchfield, who has been indicted on charges related to the Tennessee Waltz investigation.

Roscoe Dixon, who left the senate in 2004 and was subsequently indicted on charges related to the Tennessee Waltz investigation.

Jerry Cooper, who was just indicted on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy.

In 2005, a new member joined the Committee: Kathryn Bowers, who has been indicted on charges related to the Tennessee Waltz investigation.

That’s quite an ill-fated committee. Nonetheless, the Cooper indictment will have many far reaching ramifications, as may be seen by considering the following factors that enter into the mix:

Even if he believes himself to be innocent, Cooper may not be in a position to defend himself due to his already desperate financial condition.

Cooper will lose his chairmanship of the Commerce Committee (while the Ethics Committee could in theory permit him to retain it, they will not do so). What remains unknown is who will replace him. Lt. Governor John Wilder for now has the power to name his replacement. Because the legislature will not meet in the remainder of 2006, any appointment made by Wilder will be largely symbolic. However, Wilder, a Democrat, is desperately trying to hang on to his position as Lt. Governor, which the Republican majority for reasons that defy rationality permitted him to retain last year, and will likely make every effort to use this appointment and promises of appointment for 2007 as a carrot for gaining promises of votes.

Cooper, who is not up for re-election until 2008, will not have to resign unless he is convicted of a felony. However, should he choose or be required to resign, his interim replacement will be appointed by the Warren County Commission, which appears to include no Republicans among its membership. As the Democratic Cooper has frequently voted with Republicans, that appointment may move that seat to the left.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Addressing Tort Liability, Public and Private

In an example of how a government will sometimes exempt itself from the requirements to which it subjects its citizens, the state of Tennessee caps the civil liability of various government entities at $250,000 per accident. In an editorial this morning, The Tennessean correctly argues that the cap results in unjust outcomes in some rare instances; however, they do not quite arrive at the appropriate remedy.

Broadly speaking, damage awards in civil lawsuits fall into one of two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damage awards are designed to make the injured party whole with regard to losses that are monetarily quantifiable: medical expenses, rehabilitation, loss of income, money needed to train for a new occupation, funds for household help or renovations to meet the needs caused by a disability resulting from the accident, and so forth. Non-economic damages compensate the victim for pain and suffering or provide for punitive damages in response to egregious conduct by the liable party.

Advocates of tort reform have argued that limitations should be placed on the amount of non-economic damages in order to put an end to the sorts of outlandish jury awards that garner public attention from time to time -- a maximum of $250,000 is commonly advocated. However, no responsible person in the private sector has argued that tort reform should include caps on economic damages: such caps would be unconscionable, as they would prevent the successful plaintiff from being made whole on basic items such as medical expenses.

But such an unconscionable position is the place where state government stands. According to the editorial, advocates of the cap on economic damages for state and municipal governments argue that "one massive lawsuit could drive a small city into bankruptcy." Indeed. Such lawsuits regularly drive small and medium sized private businesses into bankruptcy, and the possibility of such lawsuits forces private businesses and individuals to spend lavishly on insurance coverage designed to protect them from that threat.

The solution for state and local governments is the same as that for private interests: a successful litigant should be able to be made whole regarding economic damages. Reasonable caps should be placed on non-economic ones.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Words You Never Expected in One Sentence: Wilder and Lifetime Achievement Award

Proving that geography can trump true accomplishment, the National Conference of State Legislatures began its final general session in Nashville this morning by presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Lt. Governor John Wilder, who responded with the kind of eloquence and coherence that Tennesseans have come to expect from the man who is one tick bite away from the Governor's office. After rambling aimlessly for a couple of minutes about how important legislatures are, Wilder said that serving in the legislature was more important than serving in the military. For those of us who were scratching our heads, Wilder explained that the country won't be taken down if a soldier gets shot, but it will be lost if legislators don't balance budgets.

I promise: I am not creative enough to make this stuff up.

Then, in a statement that gave me a headache when I tried to parse it, Wilder declared, "I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I became a senator, and I am one, and you are, too."

Anyone who can at all explain what that means deserves a lifetime achievement award.

Some Final Notes on Tennessean Coverage of the NCSL

This morning's Tennessean includes a report on the speech by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and informs readers that a Nebraska legislator played a piano in a public area of the hotel and that a Mississippi legislative staffer bought a cardboard Elvis. However, they did not carry a word about any of the concurrent sessions conducted at yesterday's meetings. Thus, people in Nashville probably don't know about any of the following:

At a meeting yesterday on "Capturing DNA's Crime Potential," according to a source, a presenter asked media to leave before the end of a meeting so that he could discuss information related to the Jon Benet Ramsey case.

At a meeting on "E-Legislatures: Technology and the Policymaking Process," a legislator from Utah discussed how his blog had helped him to respond to a reporter's attacks on his community, with the result that the reporter ultimately admitted that his information had been flawed. The legislator also claimed that he had achieved the adoption of legislation that would not have passed if he had not used his blog to promote the issue.

Tennessee state senator Roy Herron and state representative Mark Maddox led a session on political humor. Since the Tennessean seems determined to focus almost exclusively on light, fuzzy moments at the conference, this offered them the chance to do so while actually covering something done by Tennessee leaders at the meeting.

Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summit spoke on "Creating a Championship Team" at the legislative staff luncheon.

A major display focused on biodiesel technology, with proponents making claims of improved environmental standards and fuel efficiency. The Oracle has been hoping all week for a discussion of these claims from industry proponents and environmental activists, but has not seen it.

Vanderbilt political science professor John Geer joined Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist and former Al Gore speech writer Jeff Nussbaum in a discussion of how the use of language frames public debate and determines the way that the public views an issue. This was the most overtly partisan meeting that the Oracle attended. Norquist repeatedly stated that Republicans wanted to reduce spending and Democrats wanted higher taxes and was largely unchallenged on that premise. He was unchallenged in spite of the fact that his organization retains an affiliation with Tom Delay's pork friendly K-Street Project and Norquist himself, though not accused of any illegal activity, has been shown to have been overtly helpful to his friend from his College Republican days, corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Of course, the Tennessean couldn't cover everything. However, one wonders that they hardly covered anything of substance at all. Some will argue that this is the stuff of political junkies and that the public is not all that interested. While there is some truth to that claim, it should also be pointed out that many of these stories include matters of local interest and impact. Furthermore, when the Tennessean fails to cover any of the substantive happenings at a conference of this nature, they re-enforce the cynical and inaccurate notion expressed by some that this meeting is nothing more than a love fest for legislators and lobbyists.

Finally, I would point out that not a single Tennessean columnist who covers politics -- or anything else -- has included anything from this conference in a column to date. One supposes that journalists who graduate to writing opinion enjoy the freedom of not being required to cover a beat. However, good opinion journalists do not restrict themselves to pontificating from 30,000 feet. Too much of what Tennessean columnists do -- no, Mr. Daughtrey, I didn't mention you by name -- could be accomplished while sitting around in their pajamas all day and never leaving home.

So says this blogger.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

NCSL Holds Session on Legislators and New Media

For an excellent summary, see Bill Hobbs here.

Hobbs also updates with information from discussions he had with NCSL staff about using live bloggers at next year's conference. His persistence enabled the breaking of new ground regarding blogger access with press credentials to a single session this year, and he may be setting the stage for further advances in the next.

NCSL Presentation on 2006 Election Outlook

A presentation yesterday by Jennie Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures on the "state election outlook" noted that this year may see more state ballot initiatives than any since the mid-1990's, when term limits and tax issues became causes that frequently became fodder for citizen initiated ballot measures. Twenty-four states allow citizen ballot initiatives.

Common issues on ballots this year will include land use questions raised in response to the Supreme Court's Kelo decision and taxing and spending issues along the lines of the taxpayer bill of rights language that has been adopted in Colorado and elsewhere.

At the same meeting, Tim Story of NCSL presented information that showed that this would likely be a tough year year for Republicans in state elections even without the low standing of the national GOP. Of nine open gubernatorial seats up for election this year, eight are currently held by Republicans, including those in Democratic-dominated Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In addition, with the exception of 2002, in every Presidential midterm election since 1942, the President's party has lost seats in state legislatures.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I May Be Stuffy, but I Was Embarrassed by This

The NCSL presented Tennessee Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh with an "Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award today. In presenting the award, Representative Lois DeBerry praised Naifeh effusively, working in quotes from W.E.B. DuBois and Winston Churchill.

In response, Naifeh told the crowd that he was "glad that Lois didn't quote any of my quotes," said that the recent special session on ethics "couldn't have been worse," and thanked his family for making sacrifices so that he could be a legislator (not mentioning that his wife's sacrifice involved becoming a lobbyist.

At that point, Naifeh decided to brag on the diversity of Tennessee House leadership, saying that at one time the leadership team included a Lebanese-American, a "Jewish boy," an African-American, and (in what he said were the words of DeBerry) "a mean a-- white boy."

How very classy.

McMillan Moderates Session on Ethics at NCSL

Outgoing Tennessee House Majority Leader Kim McMillan today moderated a meeting on "money and politics" at the National Conference of State Legislatures today. She began the meeting by showing a WKRN news clip from the day of the Tennessee Waltz arrests in May 2005, telling the group that she had no idea that such things were going on before that day, but that the General Assembly had responded by passing effective ethics reform legislation and had conducted a successful 2006 session.

The panel that responded to questions posed by McMillan included former Ohio senate president Richard Finan, BellSouth lobbyist H.C. Poynter, and Arn Pearson of Common Cause.

While Pearson argued that virtually all campaign contributions gave the "appearance of impropriety," Finan and Poynter contended that campaign contributions merely gave donors access and did not actually change votes. Finan said that he had been a leader in Ohio ethics reform, but that he doubted that it made much difference. He contended that those who are unethical will find ways to skirt rules, and those who are ethical will not. Finan and Poynter both contended that full disclosure and enforcement were more important than limits on contributions and gifts in deterring unethical behavior. McMillan seemed to agree with that notion, pointing out at one point that bribery was already illegal prior to the Tennessee Waltz sting.

McMillan also agreed that campaign contributions did not change votes. She noted that she had repeatedly received donations from payday loan interests in Tennessee, and that both before and after those donations she had voted against bills that they wanted passed. She said that she assumed that those who gave her donations did so because they considered her to be an effective leader. She added that it has long been illegal to discuss how a legislator will vote on a bill when a donor is making a contribution.

I should add that McMillan did an outstanding job of leading the panel. I also will note that I agree with the perspective presented by her and the majority of the panel.

Update. A reporter from The Tennessean covered this meeting, but curiously failed to mention either McMillan's role in moderating it or the opening discussion of Tennessee Waltz. It is rather odd that a local newspaper would completely ignore the local aspects of a story that is being covered.

Once again, for the very best coverage of the NCSL, one must visit this blog -- not to blow my own horn or anything.

Some Perspectives from the Northeast

A conversation with a well-connected attendee at the NCSL meeting from the northeast yielded the following interesting perspectives:

1. While George Romney would make a good presidential candidate, he could not carry Massachusetts in a national election.

2. While Massachusetts is in no danger of becoming a conservative state, influence in that direction is being exerted from an unexpected sector of the population: legal immigrants from places like the Caribbean, eastern Europe, and parts of Africa. I asked if this conservatism was more economic or social was told that it was a little bit of both: they feel like they have played by the rules in their own lives, and they expect others to do the same. People from these groups have been among the most outspoken in favor of laws emphasizing the use of English.

3. Lincoln Chafee stands a reasonable chance of holding on to his U.S. Senate seat. The election is becoming more localized, and Rhode Islanders are expressing admiration for Chafee's willingness to buck national leaders and follow his own path.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tennesseans Take Center Stage at NCSL

Federal Express founder Fred Smith warned a national gathering of state legislators today that over-regulation of businesses can interfere with economic growth. Smith was one of three members on a panel moderated by Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Matt Kisber at this morning's general session of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Congressman John Tanner and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jim Sasser were also on the panel, which responded to questions from Kisber on the subject of "Economic Success in a Competitive World."

Smith, who noted that Federal Express was once a "small business," said that his enterprise could have never worked if not for federal transportation de-regulation that occurred in 1980 and 1993. He contended that "the cost of government regulation is sometimes not what is, but what could have been." While some people have criticized American businesses for sending operations overseas, Smith argued that in many instances over-regulation and high taxes have "driven" some businesses outside the United States.

As an example, Smith mentioned Sarbanes-Oxley, a law passed in response to the failure of Enron. While he acknowledged that changes were needed, Smith said that Sarbanes-Oxley "overreached," with the result that 75% of IPO's are now launched in London, not New York.

Congressman Tanner agreed, saying, to much laughter, that if Sarbanes-Oxley applied to Congress, "I'd be in jail right now."

Smith also argued that global competition is an unavoidable reality in today's world. Whereas previous generations produced goods such as wheat and coal, today's deliverables are frequently high tech products or information, types of goods that are relatively easy to move globally.

While Tanner repeatedly expressed concerns that the federal budget and trade deficits could potentially cripple the American economy, Sasser brought attention to a wide range of issues, including restoring American credibility abroad, rising healthcare costs, and growing "disparities of income." Sasser argued that the federal government needed to address the problem of income disparity, though he never asked for Smith's wallet, and he never offered his own to that cause.

Would a Local Newspaper Please Cover the News?

With the National Conference of State Legislatures holding its annual meeting in Nashville, one might expect that the local paper of record would provide extensive coverage, particularly with regard to issues discussed at the conference that have relevance to the state of Tennessee.

One might expect. One might be disappointed.

In fact, The Tennessean provided no coverage of a two hour session yesterday entitled "Critical Health Topics: Lessons from Tennessee." The session, moderated by state representative David Shepard, featured presentations by state Safety Net Director Susan Cooper, DMA Health Strategies President Dr. Richard Daugherty, and XL Health Tennessee CMO Dr. David Hollis.

However, the paper did find time and space to talk about the name of Arizona legislator Jake Flake and to explain why attendees won't get goodie bags.

Had a reporter managed to cover the event, they might have found any number of angles for a story: what the governor's office is saying to people from other states about why TennCare failed, future goals for CoverTennessee, the impact of disenrollment from TennCare on mental health patients, the use of disease management methodologies and technology to cut health care costs, why Tennessee is refusing federal funds in some of its current safety net strategies, the reactions of leaders from other states to the TennCare fiasco, and so on.

But, evidently, only those in Nashville who read this blog will even know that the session happened.

If any Tennessee newspaper would like me to write articles on my observations at the meetings, feel free to e-mail me at the address in the sidebar. I only write informally in this blog, but I believe that I can write in a style more appropriate for news. With an editor, I surely could work it out. I could at least find something to cover.

Monday, August 14, 2006

You Can't Pick Your Poison

At an afternoon session on the preparedness of state health care systems to respond to a disaster, a facilitator from the National Conference of State Legislatures asked representatives from about 10 states how many believed that their states were prepared, based on communications planning and procurement, to respond to a large scale catastrophe. Many hands went up, but then one member of the group asked what kind of disaster she had in mind.

The facilitator responded by suggesting a pandemic Avian flu outbreak, and all of the hands quickly dropped. As nervous laughter spread across the room, someone said, "You gave the wrong kind of disaster."

In spite of that rather disheartening moment, the session was largely encouraging, as various persons spoke of lessons learned in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. While some of the criticisms were interesting, it was perhaps even more enlightening to hear state officials note that they had learned that the "top-down" model (federal-state-local) of disaster planning and response did not work. Instead, they are now emphasizing the importance of local planning as foundational, with state and then federal planning being of supplemental importance.

TennCare at National Conference of State Legislatures

The subject of TennCare and its successor, CoverTennessee, were under much discussion at today's meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which began today at the Opryland Hotel.

After hearing a presentation on recent initiatives by various states for providing health care coverage to uninsured populations, Tennessee's Commissioner of Health, Dr. Kenneth Robinson, noted that the presenter had made no mention of CoverTennessee and asked for her thoughts on the proposal. The presenter bluntly responded that the given the dollars proposed for the coverage, that she had doubts as to whether the state would even get much response to a Request for Proposal (RFP).

The CoverTennessee proposal calls for a public/private partnership in which the state would underwrite a portion of the $150/month per member premium. For the uninsured population that is a low premium amount, because such programs tend to suffer from what insurers call anti-selection -- sick people are more likely to buy into the program than well people.

The CoverTennessee proposal is unusual in that it gives a dollar figure and asks vendors to tell what they will provide. Most RFP's work the opposite way -- the state defines the program, and vendors bid based on what they will accept as payment for the services.

Later, an entire two hour session was devoted to the subject of lessons that can be learned from Tennessee's health coverage experience. One of the presenters, Tennessee's Safety Net Director, presented an outstanding overview of the reasons for the TennCare failure and the various ways that CoverTennessee will address the state's health care coverage needs, before lapsing into full-blown statism during the question and answer period. At that point, it was emphasized that CoverTennessee was only a small start, that ultimately many more will be covered, that nurses will be found in every school, state officials will instruct in nutrition in school cafeterias across the state, that food banks will be reformed, parents will be taught to eat and feed their children properly, obesity will be eliminated, and we will all live happily ever after.

All of which was well-intended, but advocates of the nanny state always are.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Anti-War History Repeating Itself?

Charles Krauthammer points out that in the 1960's the anti-war movement resulted in the ending of the careers of some prominent Democrats and pushed the party to the left, with the result that the party lost all credibility on national security issues until the end of the Cold War. Krauthammer's suggestion that the same could be happening today strikes me as credible.

With regard to both then and now, Krauthammer points out that a debatable position on the immediate war in question brought forth a more generalized rhetoric that proved to be radical and unacceptable to the public at large in the long-term.

NCSL Meeting in Nashville

The annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures will convene in Nashville beginning tomorrow. Your humble correspondent will be attending the conference and will post observations at this site, as appropriate.

Drew Johnson of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research complains that the conference will cost state taxpayers money, but his criticisms seem myopic. First, the allocated expenditure will be largely offset by the tourism dollars brought in by attendees of the event, and the value from a tourism perspective of an event bringing governmental leaders from across the nation to Nashville should be obvious.

Johnson also criticizes the fact that the state of Tennessee pays the membership dues of state legislators who are members of the organization; however, his criticisms are based on a jaded and incomplete description of what the organization does. Johnson describes this meeting as nothing more than an opportunity for legislators, lobbyists, and other people of questionable character to party together. However, the organization serves as a valuable resource for policy information on a variety of issues, and the conference includes a far ranging agenda on a number of public policy issues of importance. While Johnson thinks legislators should pay their own dues, I would only note that it is not uncommon for both public and private employers to pay membership dues for relevant professional memberships for their employees. That would seem to be a legitimate employee benefit -- even for public servants.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Thinking about Political Labels

Are political labels useful? They can be, but the way that they are referenced by many bloggers and other political commentators is often not particularly informative. Labels help when they are used to describe a person's broad political philosophy or to show where a group or set of ideas fits on the larger political spectrum.

They are not useful when they merely serve as a means for avoiding meaningful arguments. Unfortunately, pundits frequently use labels in this way. For some people, calling an idea "liberal" means that no further discussion is necessary. If it can be called liberal, then it must be wrong. For others, a statement that a position is conservative is by itself proof that no reasonable person could ever support such a thing. End of conversation.

In these types of instances, labels aren't tools to facilitate thought; they are substitutions for it. This is the sort of opining that works for people who don't get out much beyond the particular intellectual confines, whether liberal or conservative, in which they move about. It is the modus operendi for those who only know how to preach to the choir.

It enables them to imagine that they have refuted something that in fact they have never even bothered to address. It also allows them to pontificate based on stereotypes. The Oracle has been told many times over the years that because he is a conservative that he therefore believes all sorts of things and has all sorts of motives that have never crossed his mind. Some have even become angry when I have denied believing things that they are quite sure that I must.

Lately, it seems that the term of derision used by both leftists and those on the right who style themselves paleoconservatives, is the term "neoconservative," which has more or less become the nom de jure for anyone suggesting the need for a continued American presence in Iraq. Thus, it is being said nowadays, that Democrats in Connecticut have rejected Joe Lieberman because the once distinguished Senator has had the temerity to go along with the neoconservatives.

There is no doubt that Lieberman's support of the war was the reason for his ouster. However, most of this discussion misses the point that not all those that either supported the American invasion of Iraq in the first place or who oppose withdrawal schemes in the present are neoconservatives. In fact, even those of us who were less than enthusiastic about the lead up to the war are nevertheless dismayed that those supporting an immediate withdrawal don't seem to understand that the results of that would be disastrous for the Middle East and ultimately for the United States.

That is a position that may be disagreed with, and commenters are welcome to take it on. Such debate takes place too infrequently in a world in which names such as neocon, liberal, isolationist, and so forth can be thrown around in the place of genuine arguments based on the nuances of the present situation.


In a piece that is well worth reading, Michael Barone speculates about the possibility of a McCain/Lieberman ticket in '08. That is not a combination that would excite me greatly, but I believe they would win 45-48 states. That kind of result might be good for the country.

Worth Thousands of Words

I have not commented on the Reuter's photo scandal regarding doctored photos of Middle Eastern violence, but for a compelling video that provides an apt summary of the misdeeds of some non-citizen-journalists who do have editors, see here.

Hat Tip: World Magazine Blog

Comprehensive Energy Policy Includes Nothing on Oil?

As hard as one tries to take the editorial page of The Tennessean seriously, the writers of that sheet seem almost to make a concerted effort to ensure that no one will. Today, the paper offers the following on energy policy:

The decision to shut down the nation's largest oil field will no doubt fuel Congress' yen for more offshore oil drilling. Instead, the decision should remind Congress of the environmental dangers with which it now flirts.

Oh, yes indeed. Rather than thinking about what might be done about domestic production that is insufficient to meet the nation's needs and that puts the United States on the verge of servile dependence on totalitarian and unstable regimes across the globe, we should instead think about shutting down some more drilling sites.

Then, they write"

What the nation needs is not offshore drilling but a comprehensive policy on energy.... The architects of the offshore legislation will claim on the campaign trail this year that they want to wean America off foreign oil. They will paint offshore oil drilling as a success. But in truth, it is dangerous failure both in policy and common sense.

Ok. It is hardly Solomonic to suggest that the nation needs a comprehensive oil policy, but it is curious that they use the word "comprehensive," but don't consider oil to be part of what is included in that word. They don't manage to explain how an energy policy can be called "comprehensive" when it does not, at least in the short-term, deal with present realities regarding the need for oil. Perhaps in their portion of la-la land, the comprehensive-except-for-oil energy policy can be implemented by the middle of next week, so that we will not have to all take to riding horses to work or heating our homes with -- with what, we can't use trees, either. In the real world inhabited by the rest of us, oil remains a significant part of anything approaching comprehensiveness for many years to come.

Alternative fuels should be explored. As they are, a real energy policy deals with the short-term while looking toward the long-term, as well.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Vulnerability Without End

In the wake of yesterday's disruption of a massive terrorist plot to blow up multiple airliners, an AP story begins, "After two wars, thousands of deaths and many billions of dollars spent, the United States is still vulnerable to terrorists."

The story quotes President Bush as saying, "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we're still not completely safe."

In the same story, Harry Reid argues that because of "mismanagement and wrong funding priorities, we are not as safe as we should be." That is arguably true, though it should be pointed out that in contrast to the 1990's, when al Qaeda terrorists successfully attacked a series of American targets both inside the United States and abroad with little consequence to them, since 2001 their activities have largely been limited to Iraq. It is not a stretch to contend that the aggressive response of the United States in the Middle East has caused this result.

Even so, there is a bit of unreality in the statements of both the AP writer and the President. Note the words "still vulnerable" and "still not completely safe."

The word "still" provides a sense of comfort, because it implies the possibility of a day when vulnerability disappears and complete safety becomes possible. Neither President Bush nor any other politician, Democrat or Republican, can say it, because they would be skewered for doing so, but that word "still" provides that sense of comfort at the expense of honesty. As long as people are willing to engage in terrorist acts without regard to their personal mortality, there is no future in which the threat goes away. It can be mitigated, but not eliminated. Some ideas for protecting American citizens are better than others, but there will be no fully certain plans

Those who for either personal or political reasons wish that this issue would go away will be disappointed. National security will remain a pre-eminent national issue and personal concern for the remainder of our lifetimes. Modern technology combined with the human capacity for evil guarantees it.

That is not fatalism. It is realism about the world in which we live.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tennessee Democratic Party Says to Most Tennesseans: Bredeson Doesn't Want Your Support

Conventional wisdom says that there is no chance that Jim Bryson can defeat Governor Phil Bredeson in the upcoming November election. After all, Tennesseans never deny incumbent governor’s their second terms. Bryson entered the race too late and does not have the money to challenge a moderate Democrat who has garnered support from many Republicans.

While the conventional wisdom makes sense, the behavior of Democrats seems to indicate that they don’t quite believe it. One says that, not because they are campaigning hard – that would merely show that they are not taking anything for granted – but because they keep pulling out these desperate sounding ploys that have the appearance of a campaign trying for a Hail Mary.

Are Tennessee Democrats scared of a Bryson campaign getting off the ground, or have they so rarely campaigned as frontrunners in recent years that they have forgotten how?

Today’s example takes the form of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s charges that Bryson is tainted on the subject of immigration and, therefore, is not entitled to a position on it in opposition to the Governor.

But notice the nature of Bryson’s alleged misdeeds. No one is arguing that Bryson has directly hired illegal immigrants. The allegation is that Bryson is sullied because he owns a company that has performed work for clients that hired illegal immigrants.

Now, none of these companies were Joe and Bill’s Landscaping Company. No, they are UPS, Anheiser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Kraft.

So, because Bryson owned a company that had some clients that among their multiple tens of thousands of employees either wittingly or unwittingly hired a relatively small number of illegal immigrants, Bryson is tainted. Does that make sense to anyone in the sentient universe other than Bob Tuke (The Oracle is in a generous mood)?

If so, here is a suggestion. In order to remain consistent and unsullied, the Bredeson campaign should refuse to accept any campaign donations from anyone who has been associated with any of those 6 companies, either as an employee, through a vendor/client relationship or as a purchaser of their goods and services. Furthermore, the Bredeson campaign should announce that because of its refusal to be so sullied, that it does not want the votes of anyone who in any way has contributed to the business profitability of any of those six companies. After all, Bredeson doesn’t want any association with anyone who has in any way aided and abetted illegal immigration.

Thus, the Tennessee Democratic Party is now saying to roughly 95% of Tennesseans: give your money and votes to Bryson.

Or, they are just acting ridiculous and desperate.

See also: The City Paper, Tennessee Politics Blog

Going Too Far in Little League?

Sports Illustrated has an interesting column by Rick Reilly about a 9 and 10 year old little league baseball game in Bountiful, Utah that is now stirring national controversy. In the league’s championship game, in the last inning the team at bat was losing and there were two outs, but the potential tying run was on third and their best hitter was at the plate. On deck for the team was a weaker kid, a cancer survivor with a shunt in his brain.

The pitcher, at the instruction of his coach, intentionally walked the slugger. The cancer survivor, with tears in his eyes, struck out, ending the game.

The crowd booed at the time, and the coach has been vilified ever since, with every sort of punishment short of execution having been suggested for him for having ordered the intentional walk. That is unfortunate. It was a championship game, and the coach used a strategy that helped his team win.

As much as anyone, the Oracle has been concerned about childish behavior and win-at-all-costs attitudes by adults who think it is appropriate to scream at umpires and coaches over calls and playing time in little league games. That being said, one of the purposes of sports is to teach kids to compete, to play both fair and hard in order to win. Within the boundaries set by the written rules of the game and the unwritten rules of sportsmanship, the point of a sport is to compete to win.

Contrary to the ideas of some contemporary psychologists, competition is healthy and can teach some important lessons. There are important lessons to be learned about competing and winning graciously. There are lessons about perseverance and sportsmanship when competing and losing. One might digress to note that some of those lessons for both winners and losers are sometimes lost by those pontificating in the political realm.

The child and his parents were understandably upset about what happened. However, the next day the son told his father, “I'm going to work on my batting. Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."

That is the lesson I would have wanted my son to learn. I suspect that this father has helped his son deal with far worse adversity than striking out in a baseball game, and those lessons have carried over to this situation that the father evidently doesn’t think he should have had to endure. Nevertheless, the value of that lesson is the reason I say it was all right to walk the slugger.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Other Sitting Senators Who Lost Primaries

Numerous news accounts of Joseph Lieberman's primary loss at the hands of Ned Lamont have noted that Lieberman is only the fourth incumbent U.S. Senator to lose in a primary since 1980. Of those four, Shelia Frahm of Kansas had only served for a few months before her defeat, having replaced Robert Dole, who left his seat to devote his time to running for President. New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith lost to the son of a highly connected political family, John Sununu, after having actually briefly leaving the Republican Party a few years before. That two of the other three prior incumbent losses involved somewhat unusual circumstances reveals the oddity of this election.

On the other hand, the 1992 loss of Illinois Democrat Alan Dixon to Carol Moseley Braun is more similar to Lieberman's rejection. Dixon's defeat was widely attributed to his vote in favor of Clarence Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court.

For a look at these and some other incumbent defeats in primaries going farther back, see here.

Lieberman's Loss

There will be much speculation today about the significance of Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman's loss to limousine liberal Ned Lamont in yesterday's Connecticut primary. The bottom line is this: the fact that a sitting Democratic Senator who supported the war effort lost is unusual, but it is not the story. The story is that Democratic activists went to such enormous lengths to defeat a party leader and recent vice-presidential candidate on the basis of that single issue.

The portion of the party that once included Henry Jackson and Sam Nunn has long been thought to be on life support. Last night it was pronounced dead.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Same Words; Different Meanings

Marvin Olasky, who literally wrote the book on compassionate conservatism, complains that the term has largely lost its original meaning. Olasky, who also coined the term, points out that by it he meant that government would shrink as private individuals and organizations took on responsibility for American social concerns. Now, the term is frequently used to describe the reason that Republicans have busted the federal budget and accommodated themselves to an expanding welfare state.

Deep Breaths, Folks

Don't get me wrong. The Oracle takes his politics very seriously. But, have you ever known someone who took intensity to the level of making everyone else's skin crawl a little bit? Someone who gets that wild look in his eye, that edge in his voice, that tautness in his jaw at any opportunity to lay out what he sees as right or wrong in the world? Someone who finds a mild joke aimed at one of their pet projects to be an assault on human decency and laughter to be an affrontery to justice?

If you need an example, see Nathan Moore's humorous jab at a newspaper's unfortunate placement of a picture and the too intensely wound responses of Moore's commenters.

The Oracle understands that there is medication for such conditions.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Can Republicans Win Senate Races in Democrat States?

Rob Huddleston provides the latest poll numbers for the U.S. Senate races in a number of key states and posits that claims that Republicans may lose the Senate are greatly exaggerated. In particular, Huddleston suggests that Republicans may pick up seats in Maryland and New Jersey, which would make it nearly impossible for Democrats to win a majority.

A.C. Kleinheider disagrees with that analysis, but he does so by substituting a cookie cutter for real political analysis. Kleinheider's argument boils down to this: Maryland and New Jersey are Democrat states, the election is about Bush, nearly everyone hates Bush, the Republicans can't win.

Well, there you have it. Why not just dispense with the expense of a vote and move on? One might pause, however, to wonder, given such analysis, how those two races have managed to be so close to this point?

While Tip O'Neill may have overstated matters when he claimed that all politics are local, it is certainly true that much is, and state politics in Maryland and New Jersey may have created overriding factors that overcome the national trends -- just as they have in Ohio, where a corrupt Taft administration has condemned to oblivion a Dewine campaign that may have had trouble anyway. In New Jersey, left over embarrassment from the McGreevey fiasco has combined with widespread dissatisfaction with a Democratic state legislature (which the public by a wide margin blames for the recent state budgetary shutdown) and a Democratic governor who is only popular when compared to the legislature, to give the Republican candidate, Tom Kean, a leg up. In Maryland, which did manage to elect the current Republican governor, Michael Steele is a remarkably capable and charismatic candidate running against a divided state Democratic Party with a candidate that may be too far to the left even for a fairly reliable Democratic state.

My money says that at least one of the two wins.

Corrupt Congressman Drops from Race

Ohio Republican Congressman Robert Ney, who has been closely associated with corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, announced this morning that he is dropping his bid for re-election. He has asked a Republican state representative to take his spot on the ballot.

The AP story on the announcement requires one clarification. The report states that "Ney has not been accused of wrongdoing." It is true that Ney has not yet been charged with a crime; however, it has been widely reported that Ney is the "Representative #1" mentioned in court documents associated with Abramoff's guilty plea to conspiracy to bribe a public official.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where Go the Democrats?

If the polls are to be believed, it appears that Ned Lamont will beat Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary. For an interesting discussion of the impact of that vote on Democratic presidential politics leading up to the 2008 election, see here. One of the potential beneficiaries if Lieberman loses may be Al Gore. One of the losers: Hillary Clinton.

As the author of the piece, Dan Belz, points out, opinions regarding the ultimate impact of all of this varies. To some, it signals that more bold and intransigent opposition to President Bush and to the Iraq War is a winning strategy. To others, it risks the marginalization of the Democratic Party, as activists push it so far to the left on national security issues that it will not be able to win national elections. To this observer, the present political situation looks a lot like the lead up to 1972.

Daughtrey Nominates Self for Shill of the Year

Larry Daughtrey, who is asserted to be The Tennessean's columnist covering state politics, but who actually writes a Seinfeldian column -- about nothing -- without the humor, today places this bit in the center of his piece, perhaps to ensure that he will not be taken seriously:

The Republican strategy [in opposing Harold Ford, Jr.] is painfully plain: Scream Liberal! Liberal! Liberal! clouding over a 10-year congressional record that is, in truth, a good deal right of center.

Right of center?

Right of center?

Had Daughtrey said that the record of Ford was that of a moderate or that some Democrats wished that Ford were farther to the left, most of us not simply out to win partisan points would not argue with him all that much. But, right of center?

By the way, Ford's lifetime rating with the American Conservative Union: 19. Bart Gordon is 40. Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist are around 90.

Of course, Daughtrey doesn't write the sort of columns that require him to look anything up or do research, so it shouldn't be expected that he would know that.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Corker's Calls

Nathan Moore participated in a conference call with Republican Senatorial candidate Bob Corker, Bill Frist, and a number of local and national political bloggers. For highlights, see his post here.

The Democrats Planning Attack

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is planning to launch a $51.5 million television advertising campaign targeting 32 districts currently held by Republicans, according to The Hill. That amount is about $20 million higher than previously expected. None of the districts are in Tennessee, where none of the House races are regarded as competitive.

A complete list of the planned target districts can be found at the end of the article here.

Informative National Legislative Blog

A while back, I noted that The Hill had started a congressional blog and said that it would be interesting to see how it developed. So far, the results are not particularly good. The majority of the posts have the feel of bland, abbreviated press releases, and there is little interaction between the various contributors.

On the other hand, I discovered yesterday a blog maintained by staff at the National Convention of State Legislators, which, by the way, will be holding its annual meeting in Nashville later this month. The website describes itself as a "blog by and for legislative junkies." Although it is unfortunate that new posts only appear about once per day (real junkies require more than one daily fix, at least I am told), the blog is an informative resource.

Not a School Supply

Last evening, I compulsively ventured out to the mall for the purpose of making one small purchase, thinking that I might save a buck due to the much ballyhooed Tennessee sales tax holiday. Alas! I learned that my type of item was not on the list: books. Not even literature!

One must give credit to the realism of our legislators. They don't suffer the delusion or the expectation that Tennessee students would have need actually to read anything in furtherance of their educations.

Enduring the hardship, I, nevertheless, made my purchase and am now reading a work that I have somehow avoided up until now, though I have occasionally made reference to it when discussing people on obsessive, self-destructive quests.

"Call me Ishmael...."

Friday, August 04, 2006

No Time for Eulogies

Santayana famously said that those who don't know history repeat its mistakes, and that is certainly true of pundits who narrowly focus on events of the day. Thus, E.J. Dionne begins today's column, ridiculously, by asking, "Is conservatism finished?"

Dionne somehow thinks that because the Republican Party has fallen on hard times and faces a potential electoral setback this fall, because social and libertarian conservatives aren't playing nice and can't just get along, and because some conservatives have become critical of the Iraq War, that, therefore, conservatism is ready for a eulogy that he is more than happy to deliver.

Someone else has said that history doesn't repeat itself, historians do. That also has application to political punditry.

Large ideas, be they conservative or liberal, do not die within an election cycle. The last time pundits were gleefully declaring conservatism dead was 1992: the Republican President's popularity had sunk like a rock, that President was being accused of mismanaging the end game of a war, conservatives complained that their leaders had betrayed their principles by raising taxes, many Republicans griped that social conservatives (Pat Buchanan and Marilyn Quayle) had ruined the party by looking "mean spirited" by declaring a "culture war." They declared it in 1992: conservatism is dead.

In 1994, the era of big government was allegedly over. That turned out to be premature, as well.

One makes a mistake by too closely connecting conservatism with the fate of Republicans. For much of the 20th century, conservatives were a barely tolerated faction of the Republican Party, and for nearly two decades prior to 1980, many Republicans regarded Ronald Reagan as a charismatic troublemaker who would ruin the Party. The first President Bush even after getting elected on Reagan's coattails, almost immediately distanced himself from Reagan's conservatism by declaring his administration to be "kinder, gentler" than his predecessor. That some of those now running the Republican Party have been shown to be more interested in power than in conservative principles of government in no way discredits those who remain committed to the latter.

In fact, even if Democrats win back both houses in Congress -- which at this point remains unlikely -- the narrowness of their margins with the advantages of a highly unpopular President and serious scandals by Republicans in Congress will be the real story of the year. That they may fail to pick up big gains in a year in which all of the chips have fallen their way should deeply concern those on the left.

As far as disaffected conservatives, they should remember that conservatism is partly a victim of its own electoral success. Small groups easily maintain the purity of their ideas. However, they also are small. Expansion of a movement necessarily increases the opportunity for fuzzy thinking, and some of those now leading the Republican Party, under the banner of conservatism, are more than a little fuzzy in their thought. Conservatism will reinvigorate itself and survive. Some of its leaders may not.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sweeps Month at The Hill?*

Although The Oracle is deeply offended at the notion of objectifying professional men and women by classifying some as the "50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill," he will also acknowledge that the number one choice of The Hill, Michelle Persaud, is absolutely smoking. Persaud is a staff counsel to House Judiciary Committee Democrats. Bipartisanship is suddenly looking much better to me.

And, yes, I am aware that I am being a complete hypocrite. But, I will return to my normal, boring self for the next 364 days.

*With apologies to Instapundit, from whom I shamelessly stole the headline concept.

Oracle for News Director

On Tuesday night, I turned on the television and decided to catch some local news. This is a rare event for me. I have nothing against local newscasts, except that they typically cover very little real news. I can get more information more quickly by doing my own searching on the internet. Besides, by watching little television, I have managed to avoid most of the political campaign commercials that everyone is complaining about. However, I had the flu, had slept and read all day, and was bored. So, I turned on the news.

On this particular evening, during the first 10 minutes of the newscast, I learned that the day's news was that it was hot, that it would continue to be hot for at least the next several days, that we should drink lots of water, that demand for electricity was high but the utilities were ok thus far, and that I might not want to run my dishwasher during peak hours to help them out. It was added that it was hot and will be for a while. They had even found a guy fixing air conditioners to tell us that it was hot and that he used an umbrella to shield the sun while he drank lots of water.

Imagine that! It is hot -- in July -- in the south. Stop the presses! Drink lots of water!

I turned it off and thought about drinking. I doubt I will go back to local news anytime soon.

News organizations, which are losing sleep over shrinking audiences, have yet to figure out that they will not get people to watch the news if they don't cover any news -- while the current heat wave may have merited a minute or two on Tuesday night, it shouldn't have gotten 1/3 or more of the newscast. Over the last generation, local and national newscasts have unsuccessfully tried to expand audiences by broadening appeal through offering more short stories on whatever they think average people (meaning people that don't watch the news) might want to hear about -- including, on even cool days, four weather segments during a 30 minute newscast. Ultimately, however, for news to have an appeal, it must offer something of value to those who are interested in news. From there, it can expand from its base. This is not to say that commercial news must sound like NPR -- where dullness seems to be regarded as a virtue and a studied science -- but it does mean that there must be some content passed along with the production and entertainment value put into the broadcast.

As long as I am giving advice to people who don't want it, I would really rather that the stations not send their reporters out to stand in front of empty courthouses at 10:00 p.m., and that they would instead get their reporters to learn a little bit more about the events and ramifications of what went on in the courthouse that day -- or, if they have already done that, let them file their report and go home to sleep to get ready for the next day. Live reports don't impress anyone who realizes that the reporter is the only live person within 3 blocks.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Judge Byrd of Lebanon, Tennessee: a Quick Review of Reversals

Last week, Mark Rose at Right Minded posted that he had been sent information from unnamed sources complaining about the conduct of 6th Circuit Court Judge Clara Byrd, who is up for re-election. Those complaining alleged that Byrd conducted her courtroom in a manner that was abusive toward litigants that she found disagreeable and that her decisions have frequently been overturned. Rose also posted a list of appellate court cases that had originated in Byrd's court, with almost half of those cases being overturned, at least in part. Rose passed this along as information, but added that he did not have the time or resources to do any follow up research that would be necessary to verify the information he had received. Those who worry about bloggers not having editors should applaud Rose's restraint, as I am fairly certain, given the level of indignation by some of his commenters, that he was given much alleged and incendiary information about Byrd that he refused to post without having verified it.

Because I enjoy reading case law, I decided to read some of the cases in the list that Rose posted in order to see if some conclusions could be drawn about Byrd's capability as a judge. Those appellate court opinions do not in any way verify the complaints made about Byrd's conduct of her court room. However, they would not be expected to, as that is not usually the subject matter for a successful appeal. In the opinions I read, only two references were made to Byrd's conduct. In Halliburton v. Larson, the Court of Appeals, while ruling that Byrd had misapplied laws related to grandparent's rights, said that comments made by Byrd prior to the trial did not constitute bias, though they were "close to the line." In Fain v. CNA, a workers' compensation case, the court criticized Byrd for personally examining the plaintiff's hands and declaring that she saw swelling that she attributed to the compensable injury; however, the court also emphasized that this action was not determinative in its decision to reverse the ruling of the trial court.

Perhaps the most controversial of the appellate cases that have originated in Byrd's court has been Keisling v. Keisling, a nasty divorce and custody case that has continued on for years and from which Byrd ultimately recused herself. Parties in that case appear to be behind much of the present campaign to defeat Byrd. During and after the divorce proceedings, Mr. and Mrs. Keisling exchanged numerous charges and countercharges of child abuse and parental misconduct. At a custody hearing requested by Ms. Keisling during which she alleged that her former husband had sexually abused their children, Byrd evidently decided, based on contradictory evidence, that the children were being manipulated by their mother and maternal grandparents to bring those charges, and she gave custody of the children to Mr. Keisling. The problem was that Mr. Keisling had not filed a petition for custody(his attorney said that he "intended" to) and Ms. Keisling had no notice that this would be an issue in the hearing. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Byrd did not have sufficient cause to deny Ms. Keisling her right to due process of law.

In other cases in which appellate courts determined that Byrd made mistakes in applying the law:

In Nipper v. Axtrom, the court found that Byrd had incorrectly ignored the statute of limitations for the issuing of a summons of an amended complaint.

In Pykosh v. Earps, the court found that Byrd denied the defendant's right to "fundamental fairness" by refusing to order a physical examination in order to make a determination about which of two accidents caused the injuries in question. The plaintiff had already obtained an examination.

In Lourcey v. Estate of Scarlett, the court ruled that Byrd had improperly dismissed the case for lack of a cause of action. The case involved a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress brought by a postal worker who had been flagged down by a man who proceeded to shoot his partially nude wife and then kill himself.

In Engel v. Young, the court said that Byrd had "no authority" to violate a mother's rights by awarding visitation to her child's stepsisters in the absence of any finding of significant emotional harm.

In Sanford v. UMC, the court ruled that Byrd should have sustained a motion for a directed verdict because the plaintiff had not properly qualified its expert witnesses. The court said that Byrd had correctly outlined the elements of qualification, but she had not applied them properly.

In H&M Enterprises v. Murray, the court held that Byrd had improperly held a husband responsible for the embezzlement of funds by his wife from her employer, absent any evidence that he had any knowledge of her activities (the husband is presented more or less as a deadbeat who drank and remained unaware of life around him).

In Adams v. The Tennessean, the court ruled that Byrd improperly issued a protective order denying access to public information of a settlement by the city of Lebanon that had never been before her court. Many will remember the background of this case, which resulted from the shooting by police of a homeowner after they had entered the wrong house on a drug bust.

In Milliken v. Crye-Leike, the court ruled that Byrd had erred by refusing to award discretionary costs to the prevailing party without stating any reasons for doing so.

In Brenneman v. Brenneman, the court ruled that Byrd erred by not awarding any alimony to the divorcing wife, who had dropped out of high school to have their child. In their over 30 years of marriage, she had never made more than 12k per year, while he made over 50k.

These are not the only cases on which Byrd was reversed; they are merely the ones I had time to read that I also found interesting and that, in my judgment, revealed serious errors by the trial court. Are these errors sufficient to show a pattern of incompetence significant enough to remove a judge from her position? In Tennessee, judges are elected (not a good thing in the opinion of this Oracle), so I suppose that will be up to the voters to decide.

Abramoff Scandal Touches Nashville?

A Nashville based "Christian political action group" has been subpoenaed in connection with the ongoing investigation of corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, The Tennessean reports. Abramoff had told the Coushatta indian tribe in Louisiana to send a $10,000 check to the group.

I just last night finished reading Matthew Continetti's book, The K Street Gang, which I would call must reading for anyone wishing to understand both the Abramoff scandal and what has gone wrong more generally with the failed Republican revolution that began in 1994 and started losing its way shortly thereafter.

Continetti's book does not mention America 21; however, it does detail the creative ways that Abramoff found to funnel money through various groups in order to avoid taxes and regulatory reporting requirements. Some of these were purely shell organizations; others were legitimate ones that Abramoff used to further his own purposes.

The K Street Gang also has much to say about how Abramoff used Christian groups, particularly through his friend Ralph Reed, to further his agenda. When Abramoff's clients, indian tribes operating casinos, wanted to prevent competitors from opening, Abramoff would turn to Reed to mobilize Christian groups to oppose the opening of new gambling venues.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

To All My Adoring Fans....

Blogging should pick back up tomorrow. I have had the flu, with the result that I have not been able to be terribly coherent.

I realize that may not be all that different from the norm, but at least my incoherence generally feels better.

Carter Wrong on Middle East

Former President Jimmy Carter reached new heights in his ability to trust terrorists while blaming Israel for everything happening in the Middle East in his odd op-ed piece in today's Washington Post. Carter calls the Israelis "inhumane" for their "strategy" of attacking civilians for the purpose of winning their allegiance. However, that has never been their strategy, and Carter seems to have just made it up. Civilian areas have faced attack because of the inhumane acts of Hezbollah in turning neighborhoods into human shields.