If you have sent me an email recently, I may not have received it until just now. I just found that I have 276 email messages in my junk mail folder. Even my weekly junk email report has ended up in my junk mail folder. Most of the messages are junk. (Lots of “enlargement” ads.) But many are not. I’m going through them now and responding to everyone as quickly as I can.
Please know that I am not intentionally avoiding anyone. I believe very strongly in the idea that public servants should make themselves more available to the public. To that end, the internet, email, and the blogosphere are great tools. Unfortunately,they are not without their drawbacks.
At both ends of the age spectrum, the most vulnerable among us are too often being neglected by the State.
I’ve written before about the problems with the Department of Childrens Services. That’s still an unresolved issue.
At the other end of the scale, Claudia Pinto writes about severe problems with the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro run by the State Department of Veterans Affairs.
During a recent state survey, prompted by complaints against the facility, inspectors found that the nursing home failed to: protect patients from harm; prevent and treat bed sores; and follow doctor’s orders, among other problems, according to the Department of Health.
The problems cited were severe enough to warrant a $6,000 per day fine until they are fixed.
Elderly veterans in a state-run nursing home and children neglected by their families, and left as wards of the state, are about the two most vulnerable classes of citizens I can imagine. Even the most cold-hearted budget-cutter recognizes that the State has an obligation to provide adequate and responsible care to both groups. Apparently, we’re not doing that job well.
The problems have been identified. Now is the time for a thorough investigation in order to determine their root causes, and for the appropriate agencies to make the fixes necessary.
We owe it to neglected children to protect their future, and to elderly veterans to reward them for protecting ours.
Robert Novak recently linked the pork business and corruption on Capitol Hill.
Earmarks increasingly are the source of corruption and ethical transgressions on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
He’s right. George Will made a similar point in January:
People serious about reducing the role of money in politics should be serious about reducing the role of politics in distributing money.
In that same column, Will mentions one person who might be able to lead Congress out of the pig sty: John Boehner.
A salient fact: In 15 years in the House, Boehner has never put an earmark in an appropriations or transportation bill.
That was high praise and a strong resume for Mr. Boehner, who was recently elevated to replace Tom Delay as the House Majority Leader.
Sadly, last week, John Boehner didn’t live up to his reformist reputation when he voted down every single pork-cutting proposal offered by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake. Among the pork Boehner let pass:
$1.5 million for the William Faulkner Museum in Oxford, Miss. (affirmed in a voice vote) or $250,000 to turn the Strand Theater in Plattsburgh, N.Y., into a performing arts center (affirmed 366-61). . . $500,000 for swimming pool renovations in Banning, Calif. (affirmed 365-61), and $500,000 for a Crafton Hills College athletic facility in Yucaipa, Calif. (affirmed 368-58).
Obviously, these are pork projects, but how does that relate to legislative corruption? Again, Novak fills in the blanks:
On the day after these votes, reform Republicans in Congress were startled by a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, based on research by the Sunlight Foundation, that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert earned $2 million by the 2005 sale of land he purchased in 2004. Hastert last July earmarked $207 million as the first appropriation for the proposed Prairie Parkway, located 5.5 miles from the property purchased by the speaker.
(A powerful legislative leader who steers taxpayer dollars to projects that directly benefit him. Now where have I heard of that before?)
A few months ago I asked how we could reform the system so that legislators had less ability to steer projects to their districts, their friends, and themselves. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m looking for more ideas.
How do we de-link power and pork?
More alleged earmarked corruption:
In early 2004, according to Roll Call, [US Representative John] Murtha “reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the city of San Francisco.” Laurence Pelosi, nephew of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at the time was an executive of the company which owned the rights to the land. The same article also reported how Mr. Murtha has been behind millions of dollars worth of earmarks in defense appropriations bills that went to companies owned by the children of fellow Pennsylvania Democrat, Rep. Paul Kanjorski.
Yet more pork and corruption reporting from the WT’s cross-town rival the WP:
A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year’s highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns.
In all three cases, Hastert and Reps. Ken Calvert and Gary Miller say that they were securing funds their home districts wanted badly, and that in no way did the earmarks have any impact on the land values of their investments.
. . . Now watchdog groups are combing through lawmakers’ land holdings and legislative activities, searching for earmarks that may have boosted the value of those investments.
“The sound bites from politicians have always been that they’re doing what’s best for their districts, but we’re starting to see a pattern that looks like they might be doing what’s best for their pocketbooks,” said Keith Ashdown, vice president of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Let’s first stipulate that this is NOT a Republican versus Democratic problem. It is taxpayers versus powerful politicians. And we are on the side that is currently losing.
However, in November, we get a chance to even the score. (ht:GR)
(pardon the metaphor mixing)
There has been far too little good news on the spending restraint front. So little in fact, that Republicans in Congress, will deservedly pay a political price for their porcine parties this November.
However, even though we’re far from victory in the war on pork, we should still celebrate taxpayer victories over government waste whenever we find them.
One such victory occurred earlier this week:
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit federal funds from being used to build a celebrated bridge to connect the Alaska town of Ketchikan to Gravina Island, population 50.
. . . Heritage Foundation budget experts had called the $320 million bridge “perhaps the most unworthy federal construction project in history.” It would have been as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and rise 80 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge. Then again, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s relatives own land on remote Gravina Island — which perhaps explains how this boondoggle got as far as it did.
There is more on the story here (registration required).
As anyone who has ever played sports knows, competition has the power to elevate all players. Sports, however, are one of the few realms where the same rules are applicable to all, so that no one player or team enjoys an unfair advantage.
On the other hand, uncompetitve advantage flourishes where business and politics intersect.
One of the worst examples of uncompetitive advantage is the Wright Amendment: a 34 year old law designed to give one airport and one airline an advantage over another simply becasue the airport and airline happened to be headquarter in the district of a very powerful member of Congress.
Yesterday, the major players on both sides of the “Wrong” Amendment asked Congress to finally repeal legally sanctioned uncompetitive advantage.
Southwest Airlines joined with the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, American Airlines, and DFW International Airport today to announce all parties have agreed to seek the enactment of legislation to repeal the Wright Amendment.
In business, unlike sports, there are no fans; we are all players. Fair competition elevates all. If Congress finally acts to right this Wright, we all benefit.
(For more on the Wright Amendment see here, here, and here.)
There’s a photo of US Senate candidate Bob Corker’s daughter making the rounds on the internet thanks to two political hacks. The picture purportedly shows a college-aged Miss Corker kissing another woman.
What was the context? Was it a dare? A lost bet? A sorority hazing stunt? The party hacks don’t tell us that; they only point out the prurient picture as a means of attacking Mayor Corker.
Actually the context doesn’t matter. The whole picture doesn’t matter at all–not if what we’re supposed to be talking about is who should represent Tennessee in the US Senate for the next six years.
This is the type of personal-destruction-politics-as-usual that I’m running against. I abhor the idea that a candidate’s family–especially private family members who haven’t even been made a part of the campaign–are fair game.
They are not. They are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. They are not targets. They are people, frail and flawed, just like all people and all families.
There isn’t a one of us who doesn’t have a crazy aunt, a drunk brother-in-law, a gay cousin, or worse. Part of me would love to see those two political hacks have their family’s secrets exposed on the internet. But they’re not worth the effort. They’ve already demeaned themselves with their sideshow. Nor should their families be made to suffer.
My campaign for State Senate will not delve into the negative. I have no interest in digging into the personal lives of Senator Henry and his children. By all accounts he is a good man with a good family, and I have no intention of altering that record. I know, too, that he won’t stoop to that level against me and those close to me.
But if there are still political hacks out there who would rather attack my family than have an honest debate about important issues confronting Tennessee, then I suppose I should let out some of my family’s secrets now. I’ll start with the fact that just last evening my two-year-old son soiled both himself and the carpet.
But at least he didn’t have nearly as much stench about him as those who peddle political filth.
(Also writing on this subject are Roger, Adam, and ACK.)
Over at Nathan and Sarah’s place, they’re also discussing this story. One of the commenters recalled the story of a young staffer on HFJ’s campaign who had also posed for some risque photos that then traversed the internet. She was getting much grief at the time for “proving right” the image that Rep. Ford is a playboy.
In response to that “scandal”, I remarked that were it a Republican with these photos in her past, “the same people now saying that this is no one’s business, would be all over this story because it proves ‘hypocrisy.’”
Some have obviously proved right my prediction of hypocrisy. But others like Sean Braisted, have been consistent in their denunciation of personal smear politics. Good for him. Neither lady’s pictures are relevant to Tennessee’s future.
Speaking about the Incumbent Protection Bill that makes it nearly impossible to run a write-in candidacy, Governor Phil Bredesen admits that he is “sympathetic” toward the legislation. He adds that “he thinks candidates should file to run for the primary before the deadline.”
I agree with the Governor. Candidates should have to file for the primary before the deadline. Now, I hope that he’ll support a bill that I will submit next year that moves the election filing deadline to one week after the end of the legislative session.
The people’s representatives have no business protecting themselves from the people.
Politics is a funny business.
So, I have this fundraiser a while back, and there’s this one guy there who seems out of place. I’ve never met him before. He doesn’t appear to know anyone else either. I introduce him to people there, and generally try to help him feel at ease, but all the while, there’s this voice in my head saying, “Something’s not quite right.”
Fast forward to today, when I go out to grab a quick bite to eat at my favorite new barbecue joint, where I see him again. He looked more at ease this time. Probably because he’s surrounded by people he knows better: the staff of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
Actually, I’m flattered. Flattered that they think enough of my candidacy to invest time and energy checking me out. And I’m thankful that at least they paid to attend my event, instead of trying to sneak in and drink free beer and eat free chicken
But I’m left with some questions for Bob Tuke:
1. I have to file quarterly statements with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. Do I have the right name and employer in my files, or do I need to change them so that I can render an accurate report?
2. Will you be listing a campaign contribution to the Committee to Elect Bob Krumm as an expense of the Tennessee Democratic Party on your next quarterly report? I can’t wait to see that.
3. Should I address future invitations directly to you at your home or at the state Democratic Party headquarters? You’re welcome to attend–especially the fundraisers. Please bring plenty of friends to those!
But you can attend the free events, too. You see, I’m not going to tell one group one thing, while I’m telling a different group something else. So if you’re there seeing who shows up, that’s fine. But if you’re there trying to catch me in a trap, you’re wasting your time. But you’re still welcome to try.
I understand that these kinds of things happen in politics. Just a few years ago, I myself attended a campaign event hosted by an opposition candidate just to see what he might say, so I know how hard it is to blend into a crowd of opposites.
But let me just offer a piece of advice: When you’re sneaking around on someone, it’s best not to visit a restaurant they recommended, or you shouldn’t be surprised when you bump into them at lunch.
In addition to today being Old Glory’s 229th Birthday, another old friend of mine is celebrating an even older birthday.
Happy 231st, U.S. Army!
We should be proud of the respect we accord our nation’s flag. We all remember the firefighters who raise the tattered flag they found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. An earlier generation rallied round a flag similarly raised by Marines atop a volcanic atoll in the Pacific. And of course, we still hail America’s most famous flag at the start of every ball game nearly two hundred years after a young lawyer wrote down some remarks about it.
Between now and November 12, Nashville has a unique opportunity to visit another famous flag: the original Old Glory.
Old Glory was originally flown from [William] Driver’s merchant ship in the 1820s/1830s. When in Nashville , he hoisted it across the street at each national holiday and on his birthday of March 17. As the Civil War drew near and sentiment for the Confederacy grew in Nashville.
Driver, a staunch Unionist, reportedly hid Old Glory by having it sewn into a quilt. The war divided Driver’s family as his two sons fought for the Confederacy and one son was killed at the Battle of Perryville.
In 1862 Nashville became the first state capital in the Confederacy to fall to Union troops. Upon the arrival of Union soldiers, Driver removed Old Glory from its hiding place and flew it from the State Capitol.
The newspapers of the time ran stories of Old Glory being brought out of hiding. Before long, people began referring to all U.S. flags as Old Glory.
This piece of American history is now on loan to the Tennessee State Museum. It’s a good excuse to visit the museum and explore more of the Volunteer State’s history.