Brats And Philosophy

26 05 2008

As many of you know, I dig Steve Cohen and I do. I was fortunate enough to see a ton of his interns and some of his staff last night at Bratfest (man, how wonderful Bratfest is) at Left Wing Cracker’s house. It was lovely to sit around talking politics uncensored. There was an unbridled sense of enthusiasm and good natured joy bubbling about with young people in bright blue Cohen shirts hanging out.

I like uncensored. When I go to Memphis and Nashville, sometimes for just an evening, it’s really invigorating to sit and listen and talk about politics without a filter. I get that more in Memphis actually but most likely because the bloggers I know in Memphis I met at Drinking Liberally.

One thing that SQ and I talked about after we left, other than our undying affection for the folks we visited with, was the reality that Cohen represents our more liberal philisophy than the Blue Dog community we reside in. The elected officials in our district are much more conservative than our way of thinking or at least are, for lack of a better phrase, much more in the closet about it if they are.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s the political history in District 8 that has created the more conservative Blue Dog streak that is enmeshed in the area. I’m not sure. Jere Cooper was replaced with Fats Everett who was replaced by Ed Jones who was followed by John Tanner who took over the job in 1988 after Jones retired.

Is the people of the area that have created the conservative Southern Democrat vibe or is it the politicians that represent them that have set the tone?

Man, this is too deep on this Memorial Day holiday.

I’ll change the tune, go look at this picture of a wombat.

James Hart In His Sandwich Board

11 05 2008

I’ve written about Hart before. Hart has run against John Tanner in the last two elections in District 8.

He makes me nuts . With that said, I was in Paris yesterday and, if you didn’t know, Hart marches around the Henry County Courthouse in a sandwich board. I shot a couple of photos so you could see what he does.

It says Impeach Saddam Bush.

I don’t know who the other guy is but it seemed to me he was doing his best to get away from Hart.

Watching John Tanner

8 05 2008

Just watching. Always watching.

“Some of us oppose creating a new entitlement program in an emergency spending bill, whether it’s butchers, bakers or candlestick-makers,” said Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a founding member of the Blue Dog Coalition who serves on the House leadership team as a deputy whip.

The so-called GI Bill of Rights, authored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), would give veterans money for college and cost $720 million in its first two years. But critics say that could grow to billions in future years.

House Democratic leaders attached it to the supplemental spending bill figuring Bush wouldn’t dare veto veterans’ benefits. If he did, Republicans would pay a steep political cost.

But that calculation is now causing heartburn for Blue Dogs, the same members who have generally supported war funding. The fiscally conservative coalition is split. Some members are willing to block the bill because “pay-as-you-go” budgetary rules — offsetting new spending with spending cuts or increased taxes — have been ignored one too many times. Others, like Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), don’t want to oppose benefits for veterans.

“It’s a cost of the war,” Barrow said.

Just call me a political voyeur.


National Priorities Project Calculates Local Costs

8 05 2008

Mike has this:

According to the National Priorities Project, the Iraq War has cost the State of Tennessee over $8 billion ($1 billion = $1000 million). President Bush’s new funding request for 08-09 will cost the Volunteer State over $2 billion, which according to NPP would buy Tennessee 21,714 afforable housing units, 41,906 elementary school teachers, or health care coverage for 435,808 adults.

I shake my head and sigh deeply. Here’s the calculator

So I ran District 8 ( Congressman John Tanner) and this is what I found:

Taxpayers in Congressional District 8 (Tanner) will pay $805.7 million for total Iraq war spending approved to date. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

  • 168,170 People with Health Care for One Year
  • 596,557 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year
    22,381 Public Safety Officers for One year
  • 15,078 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year
  • 143,314 Scholarships for University Students for One Year
  • 62 New Elementary Schools
  • 8,379 Affordable Housing Units
  • 281,606 Children with Health Care for One Year
  • 111,920 Head Start Places for Children for One Year
  • 16,171 Elementary School Teachers for One Year

In Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen spoke yesterday about the elimination of a little more than 2000 jobs.


The Reception For Joe Hill

21 04 2008

A reception was held yesterday for Joe Hill. (And here is where it gets confusing. Not author Joe Hill whom I wrote about yesterday but Joe Hill, political guy who was chief of staff for Congressman John Tanner,  also not to be confused with Joe Hill, the laborer who has folks songs written about him.)

Glad I could straighten that up for you.

I‘ll let Ken Whitehouse tell you a bit more about him as he is more eloquent than I am.

While most people in the state have – understandably – never heard of Joe Hill, every Democrat who has had statewide dreams has had him on speed dial since speed dial was invented. For 35 years, he has worked for the 8th Congressional District, first for the late Congressman Ed Jones and now Tanner. If you wanted to know who sneezed in Hornbeak, you called Joe Hill.

Hill is pretty much a legend around here with people who are involved in politics. His reception yesterday was packed and was like seeing the line at the Miley Cyrus movie a few weeks ago. The line went out the door and around the block at the Hampton Inn in Union City.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t stay long and I didn’t wait in line to see Mr. Hill. There were so many people there who wanted to give him their best regards as he moves on that I didn’t want to waste his time.  And it was a bit of northwest Tennessee political who’s who while I wandered about. Jimmy Naifeh, Mark Maddox, Roy Herron and his family and Mike McWherter were there as was, of course, Tanner.

Or at least, that’s who I saw before I left. But yesterday it was more about just average folks stopping by. That’s what struck me about yesterday.

Now, with that said, let me tell you that everyone in west Tennessee has at least six degrees of separation with Hill. He was the go-to guy when you needed something done. Yeah, he was THAT GUY. He was the one, when you needed information on government that you called as Whitehouse wrote above. Hill has an ability to make complicated issues in government easy to understand. That was what a lot of yesterday’s reception was all about because politicians know how government works. Average Joes like me don’t always know because sometimes I think politicians make it more complicated than it has to be.

Here’s the thing, every politician needs a Joe Hill.

Because he was connected with constituents around the area and he would take your phone call in a minute and he was one of those guys that just got things done. He would explain things and didn’t treat me, at least, with disdain when I would call him. He’d take that extra few minutes to break issues down. That’s important. What northwest Tennessee lost when he retired is huge on a grand scale in the vein of when Gov. Ned McWherter left office.

Because, you see, Hill was available. I hear a lot about people not being connected to their elected official which I have no doubt is true.

But we had Hill.

If yesterday was any testament about what he gave to folks, Hill was treated as a rock star. I stood over to the side watching a reception line that moved as slow as molasses where hundreds of individuals wanted just a few moments with him to share how he had helped them throughout the years.

You don’t see that in politics very often.

I’m pretty cynical about government as a whole, but seeing Hill stand there receiving guests honoring him because they had been impacted personally by his actions was kinda, dare I say, pretty inspiring.

I was once told by a boss I had that it is better to be a kingmaker than a king. And we all know that actions speak louder than any one word can. I thought of that yesterday as I watched that line move so slowly with people lined up outside into the parking lot and around the building in the warm spring sun. And they waited a long time. Even Naifeh waited patiently for his turn, which sort of shocked me. It was good seeing folks say thanks. Squirrel Queen, Tanner’s Communication Director Randy Ford and I watched as Hill stood there patiently greeting each person individually.

I honestly don’t think our government listens to us. But Hill did. And for some silly reason this morning, that does give me some hope that there are other Joe Hills out there who will listen.

I know, I’m being a bit sentimental which is out of character. Hush. I’ll be cynical a bit later and gnashing teeth.

A Tired Rambling Mind Asks Questions

28 12 2007

Whupped. Beat. Tired.

Yeah, I’m either observant or whiny depending on what you read in today’s horoscope for Libras. (It’s what it said. I’m not making this up.)

But, with that said, all is well in Comaland.

But I’m not getting this. Not at all. Could someone explain?

And I hadn’t heard this either recently, but then again, I’ve heard it for a few years as well usually in juke joints in west Tennessee where there is Pabst Blue Ribbon available for a buck. I still think Bill Richardson is in the running for VP, but one never knows.

KAG asks a good question. Why would Wal-Mart sell used merchandise as new? Pondering, pondering.

Oh, yeah, Stephen King is right. Again.

Finally, my new favorite word is douchenozzle.

More on Tanner

16 11 2007

Congressman John Tanner’s position on how he plans to deal with war made the Huffington Post yesterday:

It is already conventional wisdom that the “bridge fund” for the Iraq war passed Wednesday night in the House will be stopped by Republicans in the Senate. And for that reason, at least a few House Democrats say that their party should not pick another fight with the president over ending the war.

“Rep. Tanner had questions about the political viability of the bill because it may not be something that has the possibility of passing and making it all the way,” said Randy Ford, spokesman for Rep. John Tanner (D-TN), who voted against the bill. “He really wants to continue working on it in a bipartisan way, so the House can insert itself not as one party or another but to have an oversight role.”

Read the rest here.

New World Politics And Mike McWherter

25 09 2007

I talked to Mike McWherter last week and I posted my brief meeting with him on this blog.

As we were putting our paper to bed late yesterday, we got the obligatory press release that he was setting up an exploratory committee as we were packing up to go home. (Note: Mike send your press releases out earlier in the day. Having to tear up a front page when it was done to add your announcement made pagination technicians growl. And, you lose a day of media bliss especially with the big media boys in the big markets. And, tear it up we did. You are front page/top fold news because, well, your last name is McWherter.)

Friendly advice, dude.
McWherter most likely wants to be, as I would imagine, judged on his own merits. Being the son of a beloved and very well-liked politician like Ned McWherter (Ned Ray if you are from Weakley County), of course the man wants, and has, his own identity and should be judged on that. There are a few things I would recommend if he asked me which isn’t going to happen but, hey, I play armchair pundit all the time, so away we go.

First of all, I know very little about where McWherter stands on the issues. I know he’s a democrat, worked on Lowe Finney’s campaign and has been in the wings around his Pop for years, but little is known about him to the layman. I went to his website and all that was on it was a brief political statement and a box for me to sign up to get emails from his campaign. Not a bad idea, but there wasn’t any information about the reasons why we should vote for him. I’ve lived in his dad’s hometown for a long time, and worked in media most of that time. I’ve had very little contact. I DO know his sister, who is an amazing woman, a cancer survivor and very active in the community and one of the nicest individuals to grace the planet. She is amazing.

McWherter’s family is enmeshed in this community, but as I said before, other than knowing he’s a lawyer and was the treasurer of Lowe Finney’s successful state campaign against Don McLeary, that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I know he’s a lawyer and he’s in the beer biz.

Yup, that’s it.

But, sadly, the man has been around for years and in my own backyard and I know very little. As he is “exploring” at this point, I think we will find things out pretty soon.

Now, a couple of my politician buddies will probably give me hell about saying this. So be it, but one of the biggest mistakes politicians make is they meet interested constituents and do the shake and greet in smaller rural venues, but there is still an air of distance many times. John Tanner has been in politics since I was a kid, and you do see him around and he’s pretty accessible. Sometimes he will stare at you like you have mustard on your face, but he will talk about things. I’ve known Sen. Roy Herron forever, and last time I saw him he asked if I was still at the newspaper and if I’d become a full-time blogger.

Name’s in the paper every week, Roy. Do you have a subscription? (I tease. Not really.)

You see, the thing is that it’s always a good idea to pay attention.

McWherter was chatty the night I met him and I do believe his tour across the state will be beneficial and he does appear to be extremely accessible which will benefit him. I also liked his candor, and I can’t help but think he is going to make great strides in his quest of meeting average Tennesseans.

But people aren’t voting as much these days. It’s just a fact. So, how do candidates and the parties they represent combat this issue and inspire people to get out and vote?

My suggestion is simple, and this advice goes to the Tennessee Democratic Party as well. Bill Hobbs is a blogger and has been hired by the state’s GOP office. He recently released a pamphlet called “Who is Fred Thompson?” and included quotes from conservative bloggers around the state who are have a level of influence and a readership. Honestly, from a marketing perspective, this is just damned clever.

I’m not seeing the Democrats in the state pushing toward successful internet campaigns of creating a message to the online generation of voters. I see individual spurts from savvy politicians, but not a combined, concerted effort. And, alas, it’s needed.
So, get on it. Blogging is electronic word of mouth.  Word of mouth gets you elected. Social networking is free and effective. I get updates on Twitter all the time from presidential candidates. I know where Obama is going to speak nightly, how Fred Thompson is on a tour of playing catch-up after his recent announcement that’s he’s running, John Edwards is probably the most effective in sending e-mails and keeping the dialogue going online. A candidate can’t be on CNN every waking moment, but they can have 24/7 internet visibility.

Example: Steve Cohen has a FaceBook account. I get updates and you always know where Cohen is standing politically. Online, he’s everywhere and has, from a PR perspective, moved out of the shadows of being a freshman congressman quite effectively. He’s a You Tube favorite. Mainstream media covers him when he’s being all Steve and they spin his “eccentric liberal” reputation. But I can Google his name and there is always new information and his people/bloggers are very good at keeping it out there. If I Google, let’s say Tanner’s name, I’m getting bloggers’ perspectives and the occasional press release which are very consistent but very little of the “spin” is from the Dems or from himself. And sadly, when you do Google his name, there is the inevitable Michael Moore confrontation sitting near the top of a search engine.

McWherter, be revolutionary in this state. I’m no fan of Lamar Alexander, and the flannel shirt and faux good old boy foof  won’t play in 2008. We live in a world of digital overload. Use it. And let it work for you.

Because it is what it is.

McWherter can do this. He can be revolutionary in this aspect. But we need to know more about him. We are in a world of transparency in politics.

Must freak old-school politicians out on a daily basis.

And the world continues to turn.